Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

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dthor68
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Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by dthor68 » March 28th, 2016, 2:25 pm

I have caught 12 snakes in the last couple of weeks in Greenville County SC and 9 have had a fungal disease. Today I caught two snakes close to Reedy River, a Midland Watersnake and an Eastern Kingsnake. Both of these animals were so eaten up with fungal disease that I was quite surprised that they were still breathing. The Kingsnakes rectum and sexual organs were completely eaten away! Every year I am seeing more and more of this. These animals have just enough energy to emerge from hibernation and parish soon after. It looks to me that it happens during hibernation. It also looks identical to the fungal disease that captive snakes get from people who are to lazy to keep their animals cage clean and dry.

Anyway, am I suppose to report these sightings? If so, who do I report it to? I felt really confused about what to do with this kingsnake, should I have killed it? If so, then what? I will probably run across 30 more snakes like this before the spring is up. Last year, 26! As a responsible nature lover I would really appreciate if someone would tell me what I should do when I find an animal like this?

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Kyle from Carolina
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Kyle from Carolina » March 28th, 2016, 3:17 pm

How sure are you that they perish from the fungal infection? Many snakes will come out of hibernation with sores and can recover after a few sheds. That may not be the case if their reproductive organs are complete rotted, but a lot of lesions and stuff can be the result of hibernation. Given the time of year, I wouldn't rule it out completely. Although not my own observation, I've heard of some particularly rough looking rattlesnakes healing up quite well through the course of the season.

MonarchzMan
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by MonarchzMan » March 28th, 2016, 3:37 pm

There have been recent reports of fungal diseases causing high mortality in snakes in the eastern US. It probably is something to report as it's a relatively new phenomenon and as far as I know, little is known about the disease.

https://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_infor ... isease.jsp

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 112047.htm

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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by stlouisdude » March 28th, 2016, 3:42 pm

I would try to work with your state herpetologist to confirm the pathogen and diagnosis.

dthor68
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by dthor68 » March 28th, 2016, 5:13 pm

How do I know they parish? On 4/4/14 I found a milk snake sunning outside its hibernaculum that was eaten up in a few places on its belly. It did not look that bad at all. I returned less than a week later to find its mummified body in the same spot. I don't know that they are all perishing but the majority of what I am finding look much worse than the milk snake did. Last spring I found a dead racer and rat snake that both had fungal infections and looked the same way, like they were mummified or dehydrated.

Is anyone else finding snakes like this?

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 28th, 2016, 5:52 pm

Folks are definitely interested in snake fungal disease. I would start with someone with non-game wildlife in your state's wildlife agency.

If that doesn't work here is here is some contact information:

USGS wildlife health center
https://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/information_d ... act_us.jsp

Southeastern partner in amphibian and reptile conservation (SE PARC)
http://www.separc.org/contacts

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Kyle from Carolina
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Kyle from Carolina » March 28th, 2016, 5:58 pm

Yikes, that's pretty disturbing.

dthor68
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by dthor68 » March 28th, 2016, 6:10 pm

I appreciate that Bryan. I took stlouisdude's advise and emailed my State Herpetologist. It really has me worried because I am seeing a lot of it and in clean natural areas.

I just finished reading something that stated global warming may be the culprit, as is everything. If you look at weather maps showing areas were temps are going up, they all show that the Southeast has not seen any increase in temps. In fact the Southeast US is about the only spot on the globe that has not seen a rise in temps. However, we have seen more rain in the last three winters than I have ever seen in my 47 years of life. Rainfall has a lot to do with global warming so they could be right. And we all know that fungal infections seem to thrive in damp conditions.

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umop apisdn
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by umop apisdn » March 28th, 2016, 7:49 pm

Look up Dr. Chuck Smith at Wofford College. Shouldn't be too far from you, and he has a student that is trying to obtain samples to test snakes for SFD.

MCHerper
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by MCHerper » March 29th, 2016, 6:08 am

I have some experience with SFD although it is limited. I definitely echo what others have already said, it's good that you are contacting the state herpetologist about it. Snake fungal disease (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola) is devastating, I've seen what it can do to rattlers and ratsnakes. It has a nearly 100% mortality rate in some species, and has all but killed off the massasauga population in Illinois. It seems to spread in communal dens. Consistent with what you mentioned, there is suspicion among some herpetologists that it came from sick captive specimens that were released. It's certainly a significant threat to our native serpents, please continue to report any suspected observations of it.

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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by DanW » March 29th, 2016, 6:27 am

There is absolutely no evidence it had anything to do with released pets, that was an opinion piece that was lacking any real scientific evidence from a non-biologist. Any herpetologists that think that have no idea what they are talking about.

Here's an open source article on SFD. Good references as well.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl ... ne.0140193

MCHerper
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by MCHerper » March 29th, 2016, 8:11 am

DanW wrote:There is absolutely no evidence it had anything to do with released pets, that was an opinion piece that was lacking any real scientific evidence from a non-biologist. Any herpetologists that think that have no idea what they are talking about.

Here's an open source article on SFD. Good references as well.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl ... ne.0140193

I'm unaware of an opinion piece on it. Thanks for the article.

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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by dthor68 » March 30th, 2016, 2:22 pm

DanW wrote:There is absolutely no evidence it had anything to do with released pets, that was an opinion piece that was lacking any real scientific evidence from a non-biologist. Any herpetologists that think that have no idea what they are talking about.

Here's an open source article on SFD. Good references as well.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl ... ne.0140193

I read the whole article and saw nothing that said this was not started by released captive snakes. Can you please point out to me where your information is? The first time I ever saw it in the wild was Spring 2012. Prior to that I have only seen it in captive snakes, either in pet stores or owned by human garbage. In fact, the very first time I saw it in the wild I figured that I stumbled on to a released pet. Until I read an article from a herpetologist, not a herpeticulturist, stating that this disease was not started from releasing sick captive snakes, then I will continue to think that it was. So please disprove it, as of now it is the only thing that makes sense.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 30th, 2016, 2:39 pm

A bit morbid perhaps but could you post some pictures?

I would also be curious about any results you get back.

dthor68
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by dthor68 » March 30th, 2016, 2:56 pm

Bryan Hamilton wrote:A bit morbid perhaps but could you post some pictures?

I would also be curious about any results you get back.
I never got any pictures. I tend to leave camera gear in car when I am visiting a crowded park. I was going to get my son to photo it with his phone but he kinda walked away when the 20+ people surrounded me.

This Monday, when kids are back in school, I will see if I cant find it at same spot. It will either still be there, or dead one. And, so far I have heard nothing back from Will Dillman (SCDNR Herpetologist).

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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by dthor68 » March 30th, 2016, 3:26 pm

DanW wrote:There is absolutely no evidence it had anything to do with released pets, that was an opinion piece that was lacking any real scientific evidence from a non-biologist. Any herpetologists that think that have no idea what they are talking about.

Here's an open source article on SFD. Good references as well.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl ... ne.0140193
" Any herpetologists that think that have no idea what they are talking about."

Are you really saying that if Herpetologist figured out that this was all started from some released pets you would think that they did not know what they were talking about? Can you explain why you feel that way?

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umop apisdn
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by umop apisdn » March 30th, 2016, 5:36 pm

I can't speak for Will, but as I already suggested, you should contact Dr. Charles Smith at Wofford. Will is extremely busy at this time of year and is also fishing through a constant sea of calls from SC residents claiming to have copperheads they want removed. Additionally, I don't think Will/SCDNR have anything in place to sample cases of SFD.

There is a student working on SFD cases in SC. So once again, contact Dr. Charles Smith at Wofford.

http://www.wofford.edu/about/contact.as ... last=Smith

dthor68
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by dthor68 » March 30th, 2016, 6:14 pm

umop apisdn wrote:I can't speak for Will, but as I already suggested, you should contact Dr. Charles Smith at Wofford. Will is extremely busy at this time of year and is also fishing through a constant sea of calls from SC residents claiming to have copperheads they want removed. Additionally, I don't think Will/SCDNR have anything in place to sample cases of SFD.

There is a student working on SFD cases in SC. So once again, contact Dr. Charles Smith at Wofford.

http://www.wofford.edu/about/contact.as ... last=Smith
I appreciate it umop, I sent him an email about an hour ago. I thought I would have some difficulty in finding his email, no difficulty at all. Thank You Much.

Umop, are you in SC?

DanW
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by DanW » April 1st, 2016, 11:25 am

The paper was posted because it is open source and provides many good references on the topic SFD and zoonotic diseases in reptiles. It is possible that SFD could enter captive snake populations and that these snakes could be released and could spread SFD. In the same way it is possible to ship some salamanders from Europe that could if released spread disease among wild salamander populations here. SFD is related to CANV complex that has caused lesions in captive reptiles, but this does not mean this is where the disease originated. Research so far has not shown a connection between SFD in a captive population of snakes causing infection in wild snakes. There are many infections and diseases that cause lesions in both captive and wild snakes that are not SFD. Also, I am a Herpetologist who has published four papers on SFD.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » April 3rd, 2016, 10:50 am

Thanks for the clarification Dan.

Can you post the references the SFD papers you co-authored? I like to stay current on the disease literature. We're having a good discussion of the importance of biosecurity and disease prevention for field herping.

http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=23285

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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by MCHerper » April 3rd, 2016, 11:20 am

Same here, I would like to read them as well.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Kelly Mc » April 3rd, 2016, 6:37 pm

edit
Hey Im gonna move this comment about air bubbles to the bleach thread.

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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by stlouisdude » April 3rd, 2016, 8:41 pm

The problem with saying captive snakes introduced SFD is that there's no evidence that this is the case. By that standard, did bat keepers introduce white nose?

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Kelly Mc » April 3rd, 2016, 10:32 pm

There isn't any evidence but it makes me wonder how many bats per het would be a fair trade.

DanW
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by DanW » April 4th, 2016, 11:35 am

The other three for Bryan:

Matthew C. Allender, Christopher A. Phillips, Sarah J. Baker, Daniel B. Wylie, Amy Narotsky, and Michael J. Dreslik (2016) HEMATOLOGY IN AN EASTERN MASSASAUGA (SISTRURUS CATENATUS) POPULATION AND THE EMERGENCE OF OPHIDIOMYCES IN ILLINOIS, USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases In-Press. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/2015-02-049

Allender MC, Dreslik M, Wylie S, Phillips C, Wylie D, Maddox C, Delaney MA, Kinsel MJ. 2011. An unusual mortality event associated with Chrysosporium in eastern massasauga rattlesnakes (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus). Emerg Infect Dis 17:2383–2384.

Allender MC, Dreslik MJ, Wylie DB, Wylie SJ, Scott J,Phillips CA. 2013. Ongoing health assessment and prevalence of Chrysosporium in the eastern massasauga
(Sistrurus catenatus catenatus). Copeia 2013:97–102.

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Nshepard
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Nshepard » April 7th, 2016, 11:13 am

There isn't a body of evidence for SFD mortality in the SE US. Some states / university are building up sampling protocols to test prevalence and range of this fungal infection. It should be noted that not all fungal infections (or even minor fungal blisters) are SFD! Currently there is no way to 100% recognize SFD without the use of PCR. And there have been cases were SFD snakes have been successfully treated! Mortality in the SE US is seems rare in SFD cases.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Fungal Disease in Wild Snakes?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » April 11th, 2016, 9:56 am

Some updated information on salamander fungus:

National Wildlife Health Center
Wildlife Health Bulletin 2016-03
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal):
An Emerging Disease of Salamanders

http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/w ... 0Final.pdf

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