I just discovered this bit of information.

"And a side note—a dead rattlesnake can still bite you long after it’s been squished on the highway. The bite reflex within the nervous system is still intact for several hours after the snake’s demise so don’t pick one up lusting after a cool snakeskin belt."

This is the source.


I wonder if it is true for other poisonous snakes?

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I've been told by veterinarians and zoologist alike that this is definitely true, especially wihtin hours of death and in in warmer temperatures.   I've even been told that even if it doesn't bite the fangs have residue on them and you need to be careful  messing with a dead poisonous snake.   You're best off avoiding the head at all cost.  Chop that sucker off and keep it away from your pets!

I have heard it is true of all snakes actually.  But when you put this up I checked and it is not just snakes


 The same is true with snapping turtles-- My grandfather used to skin snapping turtles to make turtle soup. Those powerful jaws can still clamp shut, long after they are dead-- He demonstrated that to me one time when  I was a little boy- He stuck an inch thick stick in ones mouth, and the dead snapping turtle bit the stick in half-- Good way to lose a finger !! He knew of some way to strike the turtles head with a hammer that prevented that reflex action, but I don't remember exactly how he did it.. I would guess the same would be true of all species of turtles.

interesting article jan.  and I can attest to those headless copperheads, striking over and over...
Jan Carter said:

I have heard it is true of all snakes actually.  But when you put this up I checked and it is not just snakes


Really depends on how close to the head the "squish" is, just like any wild animal hit by a car. Unless the snake is only hit below their critical vitals in the upper third - toward the head - they aren't technically dead. But, "hours", while sounding safe, is a bit of a stretch unless it's a tail pin squish.

Think it's kind of funny that folks believe what they see in the "survival" shows anyway. Very few even come vaguely close to reality.

Also, realizing it's not your doing Charles, the snake above the caption you copied isn't even a rattlesnake (previous lead in pic was), It's a cotton mouth. Fairly docile if not agitated and rarely hit by cars as it doesn't travel by road. Neat pics though.

Just a thought Jan, on your link, how does a head with no attached body muscle.......flip up and bite. Just part of gene pool cleansing.....the guy was stupid to put his hand that close. Bet he's checked more than one running fan in his life time.

Just a cautionary in my book - anyone that has to use that many less than savory expletives to present his/her point is not totally sure of what they are saying.

Carl, I didn't hear it on a reality show.   I first heard it from family members,  Grandfather, both parents, aunts and uncles, etc.

But you are correct, Carl, you pretty much have to put your hand in the snake's mouth in order to get bit!  It ain't like the snake is going to coil up and strike!    Like I said, a viper's fang can still be deadly simply because of residue  on the fangs and the fact the the venom sack is still there.  Until  fangs are cleaned and venom is removed, you have a chance (however remote) of being poisoned by the fangs.

The people who are most likely bitten or poisoned dead snake were probably playing around with the jaw shortly after the death of the snake.   In short, don't let your drunk buddy or toddler child play with dead snakes!

Thanks for the additional info Carl and Tobias.

Didn't mean to imply what you said was from a reality show Tobias, just a comment on reality shows in general (triggered by the links above). Sorry I wasn't clear on that. No intended foul.

For what it's worth just about any animal that collects holds and kills it's meals or protects itself with it's mouth/teeth has a built in sensory trigger to clamp down at the slightest touch. The nervous system stays viable longer in cold blooded animals than in warm blooded animals, reptiles and amphibians for the most part. The muscles that operate the poison glands however are not in auto mode. Most venomous snakes are capable of regulating the amount of injection based on need - ergo "dry bites" and "light bites" where little or no venom is used. Unless they are in a fight/flight situation most rarely use more than necessary to secure their food. It's pretty much like saving your bullets for the real fight. Juveniles tend to fire all rounds since they are still learning to survive. Even though just as toxic, they are not carrying near the supply of an adult. The larger ones quite often dry bite smaller game such as field mice and depend on impact and tooth puncture to secure their food. A large rattler is capable of impacts that can shatter non tempered window glass. Sure there maybe slight residual on the fangs, but being a concentrated protein, it degrades quite rapidly when exposed to air/water. Neurotoxins are a different animal....no experience with them.

Still, all that being said, broken glass has sharp parts and should be handled with due care (same with snake heads).

Spent a lot of my younger years dealing with snakes and other wildlife. Paid for almost half my higher education catching snakes for zoos. It was important to know these things and fascinating at the same time. My degree is BSFR from UGA with a major in Wildlife Biology, so it all fit together nicely. I will only kill a snake under extreme circumstances, they are too valuable to their eco systems as vector controls. Believe it or not, for the most part, they are your friends and don't seek you out to do harm........of course there are some big water snakes out there that aren't quite so discerning.

Thanks for all the info Carl.  Fascinating stuff.  The general rule from my grandfather was don't mess with a dead snake  until after sunset.

While I've caught several snakes in my life time, I've only caught one poisonous snake and that was out of stupidity. We didn't recognize it  as a cottonmouth until after it was in the bait bucket.  My grandfather was fit to be tied when saw what we caught!  As for rattlesnakes, I had a couple run-ins with them when I lived near Wichita Falls, Texas.  The worst was when I was walking in a field barefoot looking for horned toads but came across a Western Diamondback  I was within three feet of it when it started with its rattle and coiled up to strike.  I about wet my shorts!  I slowly backed away until I was good ten feet away and then ran away like a jack rabbit until I was safely in my house!  Trust me the snake scared me more than I scared it!  To date, I've never killed a snake. 

I agree unless they are threat to you or your property, leave them be.  Even when I've caught snakes, it has been a catch and release kind of thing. Catch the snake, show it to younger children and then either release them where I found them or move them to safer hunting grounds so no one else will kill them.

On a side note, here is the information provided from the National Institute of Health regarding snake bites:


Of special note:

7. Bring in the dead snake only if this can be done safely. Do not waste time hunting for the snake, and do not risk another bite if it is not easy to kill the snake. Be careful of the head when transporting it -- a snake can actually bite for several hours after it's dead (from a reflex).

(However, as you said, biting and injecting venom are two separate things!)  I think we are in agreement The chances of death are pretty remote, still the bite could be painful!

A little trivia question -- does anyone know what wildlife show host was once bitten by a Rattlesnake while prepping for a show and had to be rushed to the hospital because no anti-venom was on the set.

I just thought about this video Robert Burris did after turtle hunting one day.  Please remember, this was a meal for his family, he just took the opportunity to tape it and show the younger folks with him why it is important to stay away...even from the dead


Tobias, I can't recall his name now but was that the same one who was killed by a sting ray?

Nope, it wasn't Steve Irwin but I'm sure he was probably bit once or twice!  In the case of this person many people claim to have seen it live on TV but it actually happened during rehearsals and no cameras were rolling.  In his biography he actually talks about how his own carelessness caused the bite!


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