Severed snake heads can still bite -- and often do

It sounds like a wild fabrication: A spitting cobra, being prepared for a dish in a restaurant in southern China, bit and killed a chef 20 minutes after its head had been chopped off, according to a report in China Daily.

It turns out snakes do this quite frequently.

"Hell, yes, that can happen," Sean Bush, snake expert at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, told NBC News. "It's a last-ditch effort to survive, so it's very common. They get real snappy in the throes of death."

The longest Bush has heard of a snake striking after being decapitated was a rattlesnake whose severed head bit someone after 90 minutes. Reptiles have much lower metabolisms than humans do, meaning their internal organs stay alive longer, hence the biting.

The lesson? Be careful around venomous snakes— even if they look dead. "It's important to inform the public that a even decapitated snake can kill you," Bush said.

Metro Atlanta snakes:

Central Georgia snakes:


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