Deadly Fungal Disease is Affecting Snakes in the Eastern United States
The deadly fungal disease, Chronic O. ophiodiicola has started to spread across the Eastern portion of the United States. While we often write snakes off as dangerous and pointless creatures, they are essential in helping to manage rodent populations and reducing the spread of disease.
When the deadly fungal infection first started in 2006, scientists were merely curious about what the infection was. Soon, it began to spread through populations of snake across New Hampshire, and Illinois. Several species experienced massive deaths reach as much as 90% of their population. This includes the massasauga rattlesnake, the broad-band rattlesnake along with 14 other species. To date, the fungal infection has appeared in 16 states and is continuing to spread.
When affected by this fungal infection, snakes are more likely to suffer from anorexia and starve to death. Others may spend more time in open, sunny areas and can fall victim to other predators. While the disease only impacts snakes, it does share characteristics with white nose syndrome in bats, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Both are believed to be associated with the chytrid fungus that is also found in frogs and salamanders. This means there is a fungal problem that needs to be addressed, before it continues to become a widespread problem.
Snakes do have it slightly worse as habitat deterioration and a decline in prey have already negatively affected species count. Scientist fortunately are actively working on finding a cure for the condition in the hopes of saving the snake populations in the United States.