Sunday, January 6, 2008

Do Rattlers Bite Themselves?

By Joanne Harris --

There's always this argument, will a snake bite itself, or not. Well, let me tell you, under the right circumstances, yes, they will bite themselves. On this business of biting themselves, now in that pile of snakes, those we were shooting -- (we had returned to the nest) we had the guns with us and we put bullets through their heads. Some of the snakes tried to bite themselves. I mean they would turn around -- there was a pile of snakes -- and they would try to find a piece of snake and bite it. Well, that wasn't them and then they'd try again. Eventually when they'd found and bitten themselves, they stopped biting the others. Three of them did this.

Once we found a snake that had been run over by a car and it lay in a circle, its fangs in its own body. Another time, years later (the 1960s) when I was teaching at Colfax High School, one of the other teachers brought in a rattlesnake in a big gallon jar. It was supposedly a dead snake, and I watched it and watched it and watched it. And I saw movement in the body and I said, "Skip, that snake is not dead."

He said, "It is dead."

I said, "Skip, it is not dead. I've seen it move." Skip just filled the jar with formaldehyde. When we came back later and looked, the snake was dead and its fangs were in its own back. So when Skip put the formaldehyde in the jar, it was horrible and the snake killed itself.

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