In the past few years stories about severe fungal infections of bats and amphibians can be found in both scientific and nonscientific news outlets. For bats, White-Nose Syndrome is decimating populations in the United States and Canada. For amphibians, Chytrid is doing the same to global populations. Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) is also wrecking havoc for some snake species in the eastern part of the United States but it is not as well known.
Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola is the fungus responsible for SFD. A snake with SFD will have crusty scales, skin lesions, ulcers, cloudy eyes, and other clinical signs of infection. Severity of infection and mortality rate vary from species to species. Species impacted include the northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon), eastern racer (Coluber constrictor), rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus species complex), timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus), pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius), and milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum). So far, it is found in nine states (Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) thus far. It is possible SFD may be an issue across the entire country and many more species but due to the secretive nature of snakes it will be difficult to know the true range of impact which is what makes it so daunting and troublesome. We may never not know the true impact until it is too late.
About This Illustration:
Colored pencil and pens-I prefer to draw technicolored snakes over SFD snakes. Google “snake fungal disease image”, it is not a pretty picture. This image is available via Redbubble.
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