A family card game was dealt a hand nobody expected when a two-headed snake slithered in and surprised the players Jeannie Wilson was at home with her family in Alexander County, North Carolina, when she realised that the joker wasn’t the only wild card in the room.
“I found this rat snake in my sunroom after we had a card game with friends and family,” said the retiree.“My son had opened the door to let some air in and I guess it came in then.
“Well I've never been a snake person, but when I saw him my heart broke.”
What she’d found was a rat snake with two heads – a mutation that affects just 0.001% of those born into the species, according to experts. Jeannie, 63, instantly felt sorry for it.
Two-headed snakes face an uphill battle for survival, sometimes even struggling to move properly due to having two independent brains.
“I know nothing about snakes but I knew it was not poisonous,” said Jeannie.
“I said 'there's nobody gonna hurt you'. I wanted him to be somewhere safe and taken care of.”
Naming the creature Double Trouble, Jeannie took the creature to Catawba Science Center in Hickory, North Carolina.
There she learned just how rare her discovery was – one in 100,000.“They said it's around four months old and in good health,” she recalled.
“They put it in its own vivarium. It crawled inside of a rock and stuck its two heads out of the hole like it was at home.”
Now the creature is being looked after by a snake handler in Kernersville, North Carolina.
Two-headed creatures can occur when an embryo splits, as if to form twins, but it does not split completely.
It can also occur the other way around, with two separate embryos incompletely fusing to form a two-headed creature.
Few survive long enough to be born and fewer still live beyond that.
Rat snakes take their name from their prey, which they usually kill by biting and constriction, they are not venomous.