Yet in some ways, not so weird.
The Penn State scientist spends a good chunk of his time doing fieldwork in the West Indies. Because of the vagaries of evolution, islands tend to yield plants and animals of different sizes from those on the mainland.
That's just one of the elements that drives the 51- year-old Hedges again and again to the specks of land that dot the Caribbean, wearing his wide-brimmed hat and field vest. He is motivated to identify as many species as possible - he has had a hand in more than 70 discoveries since 1987 - in the hope that they can be protected from the pressures of encroaching development.
"It is difficult to protect a species if you don't know it exists," he said.
He and his wife, Carla Hass, found just two specimens of the new small snake - the "carlae" comes from her first name - despite days of flipping over rocks during their 2006 trip to densely populated Barbados. On nearby St. Lucia, they also found a second new species - dubbed Leptotyphlops breuili - on land that was slated to become a golf course.
"That aspect of it is disheartening," said Hass, who also teaches biology at Penn State.
Both kinds of reptiles were clearly a kind of creature called a threadsnake. The months since then have been spent carefully comparing the new finds with known species, both in terms of their outward appearance and underlying genetic makeup, to determine that they were indeed distinct.
Curiously, Hedges found that three other specimens of something that looked like his smallest snake had been collected decades before, and stored away in museums, but they had been misidentified as small versions of a different species.
Robert W. Henderson, a biologist at the Milwaukee Public Museum who was not involved in the new research, said Hedges had correctly set the record straight. He called the new analysis "very sound," and said he planned to include the two new species in a book he is writing about West Indian amphibians and reptiles.
"Blair's been very good at getting off the beaten track," Henderson said.
At first, growing up in Arlington, Va., Hedges fulfilled his passion close to home, keeping various local critters in tanks in the family basement. Once, to his mother's alarm, she found a snake on the loose during a bridge party.
On another occasion, Hedges' love of snakes was more welcome.
While in college at George Mason University, he worked at the Smithsonian Institution. He left the amphibians and reptiles division late one night, at 2 a.m., and was alarmed to see smoke in the rotunda where the African elephant is displayed. He ran to find a guard.
Firefighters soon arrived and quelled the small blaze, the result of a malfunctioning oven.
Hedges has been at Penn State since 1988.
His smallest snake generally measures about four inches long, to judge from the two that he found and the three misidentified specimens that were in museums. The next smallest species is likely some other kind of threadsnake, though Hedges can't say which one for sure.
The reason smaller (and larger) versions of animals proliferate on islands, Hedges said, is that islands typically do not have the full range of species as the mainland. So the creatures that do make it to an island have less competition in various ecological niches.
From what Hedges has seen, the smallest snake lays just one longish egg.
Bigger snakes lay multiple eggs that are more spherical in shape, lined up like peas in a pod. The smaller and skinnier a snake, Hedges said, the less likely it is to lay round eggs, because they'd be so tiny as to be nonfunctional. There's a trade-off: They lay a smaller number of elongated eggs instead.
So this smallest snake, if it doesn't remain the record-holder, is probably close to being as small as a snake can get, Hedges said.
To find out, he'll need to head back to the islands.
Contact staff writer Tom Avril at 215-854-2430 or email@example.com.