MILFORD, PIKE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – No, you’re not seeing double. Meet Jake (on the left) and Elwood (on the right), Milford’s own two headed painted turtle. The quarter sized turtle was found by Mike and his wife Tanya Pfaeffle in their own backyard.
The couple has two ponds on their land and have been raising the turtles that live there. Tanya first discovered their new two headed friend as she was helping a new clutch of turtles hatch.
“She comes running down and says you’re not going to believe this. We have a two headed turtle. I completely didn’t believe her, I ignored her. Five minutes later I came upstairs and took a look and sure enough it’s a two headed turtle,” Mike Pfaeffle of Milford, said.
The couple decided to take the turtle in, and began researching about two headed turtles. Pfaeffle tells me he’s learned that it’s a rare condition called bicephaly. Animals with the condition can have two sets of organs or a single set of organs.
“Based on the size of the shell and the shape of the shell, we’re thinking it has two sets of organs. We’re gonna do an x-ray on it to confirm and make sure that they do. If they do there’s a good chance they’ll live a normal life. Well, somewhat normal,” Pfaeffle.
The turtle will be a permanent house guest in the Pfaeffle household as it has a slim chance of survival in the wild with two heads. Pfaeffle tells me Jake and Elwood have had challenges even in captivity, since hatching.
“It seems each head controls a different part of the body but has the ability to control the other half. So occasionally you’ll see them struggling to get food. One head might be… or one stomach might be hungry while the other one is not. So one set of legs will try to pull them towards the food and the other one wants to go off in the other direction so he’s pushing the other way.,” Pfaeffle said.
Walking is also difficult for the turtle.
“They’ve kind of learned to walk like a crab, the front legs will both move forward and the both back legs will go forward which is a little bit un-natural for a turtle, turtles kind of walk like a dog, one leg at a time,” Pfaeffle said.
If the turtle does survive, it might grow up to 5 or 6 inches, but the growth will take time. Pfaeffle says researchers from New Jersey have reached out to them to take a close look at Jake and Elwood. They’re anxious to get more information to help their new pet survive.