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Ophidiomycosis (Snake Fungal Disease) in New Jersey Wild Snakes
Paré, J.A.;Conley, K.J.;Boyer, D.M,;Schantz, K.A.
Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Oo) is the leading fungal pathogen of captive snakes and also causes snake fungal disease (SFD), an emerging disease of wild snakes in the United States. Necropsies on carcasses of two wild snakes collected in New Jersey in 2012, a black rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) and a Northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen), showed that they died with extensive cutaneous lesions due to ophidiomycosis (SFD) and suspected ophidiomycosis, respectively (Paré and Schantz, unpublished data). This prompted a collaborative New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) health survey of free-ranging snakes in 2013 and 2014. The aim of the study was to determine if ophidiomycosis was present among populations of endangered timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in the Pinelands and in the Northern Region of New Jersey and if so, to assess the impact of the disease on these populations. Known timber rattlesnake hibernacula, transient basking habitats, and gestation sites were visited from emergence in end-April/early May, and throughout the summer. Sick snakes, defined as any snake with visible skin lesions, were captured and transferred to the WCS Wildlife Health Center (WHC). Snakes were immobilized, weighed, sexed, transponded, and morphometric measurements were recorded. Whole body radiographs were obtained and blood collected. Skin lesions were described and recorded. Fecal samples, when available, were tested for parasites. Biopsies of skin lesions were collected for histopathology and fungal culture. Snakes were housed at the WHC as needed or until lesions resolved, and were then released at capture sites. Ophidiomycosis was diagnosed in snakes from the Northern Region and the Pinelands. Timber rattlesnakes were the predominantly affected species, but disease was also recorded in black rat snakes, corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus), Northern black racers (Coluber constrictor constrictor), and Northern pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus).
Ophidiomycosis;Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola;snake fungal disease
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