Bikers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, were startled to discover Sunday that a rather long “stick” beside a busy trail was actually two copperheads, hopelessly knotted together by their tails.
However, what appeared to be an awkward predicament was not an accident.
Copperheads copulate by locking tails, so this was a case of rarely seen venomous snake sex, according to reptile expert Jesse Rothacker, who operates Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary in Elm, Pennsylvania.
He’s the one who found the pair “having a moment” and took it upon himself to move the lovers before they were stepped on by a hiker or run over by a biker. The two snakes locked together stretched about six feet, he says.
A video of his encounter was posted Sunday by the Forgotten Friend sanctuary and has been viewed more than 25,000 times.
“It looks like just a stick hanging out there,” Rothacker says in the video. “That’s not a stick, guys. This is actually a copperhead. It’s not one copperhead, this is actually two.
“This is their living room,” he continued, “or what’s really more like their bedroom.”
Rothacker, who says he was biking at the time, can be heard in the video warning passersby away from the copperheads. The snakes have a bite that sends most people to the hospital and can be deadly to those who have a severe reaction to the venom.
Copperheads breed in the spring and fall, Rothacker says in the video. However, he admits never having witnessed a mating until now, despite years of working with reptiles. He suspects the mating Sunday started in the bushes, but moved toward the trail when the female “wanted to be done” and the male wouldn’t take the hint.
“You’ve learned maybe more than you need to learn about the eastern copperhead,” he says in the video. “Kids, if you’re watching this and you want to know what is happening, I’ll just let you ask your parents.”
Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary earned headlines in August when Rothacker found one of the agency’s kingsnakes eating its own tail.
The snake gobbled a few feet of itself before Rothacker coaxed it into regurgitating. A video of him saving the snake from itself has been viewed more than 400,000 times on Facebook. The kingsnake, named Kronos, survived and was later adopted to a new home, the agency posted on Facebook.