After finding a rattlesnake against his fence while plowing his yard, Billy Forbus shot off the snakes head after his wife, Kerry Forbus, brought him a shotgun.
After shooting it, he waited an hour before he used a grabber tool to put it into the bed of his truck and went to his brother’s house. The snake didn’t move at all while initially putting it in the truck, but things changed once he pulled up.
The following video shows a clearly headless snake seemingly attempting to slither away before resorting to striking at Forbus:
Forbus gave up on attempting to move the snake and waited several more hours before returning. The snake was stiff and had ceased to move at that point.
“In general, reptiles rely more on spinal reflex arcs than they do brain stimulation,” according to Adam Cooner, a veterinarian at the Alabama Medical Center. ” Throughout the spinal cord, there are sites which control movement, so the spinal cord can function, to a degree, autonomously from the brain. That explains why the rattlesnake in the video is still writhing and moving despite the head being in less-than-ideal condition.”
“The strike is likely a reflexive response to continued pestering by the man with the tongs (Billy Forbus). The spinal nerves sense the direction the prodding is coming from, but despite how it appears the body doesn’t ‘know’ it’s striking a man.”
It shouldn’t be any surprise that the snake didn’t actually know what it was doing.
“The brain can continue to function (after being severed) for hours in some cases,” Cooner explains. “Saying that those bites are reflexive is probably inaccurate: the snake is probably conscious and in agony.”