Snakes in Missouri infected with fungal disease

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – This year, four different snake species contracted a fungal skin disease in Missouri that caused their faces to swell, deform, and crust over.

Jeff Briggler, a breeder at the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the level of snake activity in the state is low, but residents should remain vigilant.

“If someone sees a swarm of dead snakes or a swarm of snakes with all sorts of signs of it, those are more serious signs and we need to be on the lookout for them,” he said.

Briggler said the state has been actively testing and tracing O. ophiodiicola, or snake fungus, in various reptile species for about seven years. He said nearly 50% of the positive cases found in Missouri involve the endangered wood rattlesnake.

“We often refer to it as a ‘blister sore’ or ‘skin rot’. “We always thought it was just snakes being in a wet environment.”

He said experts now know it is an infectious fungus marked by wounds in the skin that disfigure the reptile’s head, sometimes making it inedible even. He said the fungus cannot be transmitted to humans, but is highly transmissible from snakes to snakes, leaving species that ‘hibernate together most at risk of infection.

“They have swelling, discoloration of the skin,” says Briggler. “A lot of times, it’s around the face, lips, or belly.”

While it’s controllable if acquired in childhood, Briggler says the fungus can pose a deadly risk to older snakes and those that shed their skin less frequently.

“There are behaviors in these animals that could help stop the progression of this fungus,” he said. “If they sunbathe, heat up the body, shed the skin, that can help get rid of the fungus from the skin.”

A Western rattlesnake found in Missouri with a discolored head. This snake tested positive for snake fungal disease. (Photo: Jeff Briggler / Missouri Department of Conservation.)

In 2006, researchers at the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game discovered brown, scaly blisters on the necks and faces of endangered wooden rattlesnakes, as well as carcasses of a rattlesnake; believed to have died from a fungal infection of the mouth, according to a 2011 research.

Two years later, researchers in Illinois found three eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, dead with disfigured and puffy faces. Researchers have likened their appearance to a reptile being run over by a car, according to one posts published by National Geographic.

Briggler said it’s important for the public to alert any dead snakes found with possible symptoms because experts are actively monitoring their immunity to the disease. this disease.

“Like anything, young snakes, once they come out, if they have this, their immune system stops it from progressing,” he said. “As things get older, your immune system weakens so you have a high chance of dying for you.”

If deadly, deformed snakes start to appear around the state, Briggler said it’s very likely that endangered species ‘could face extinction.

“It’s not like people see a snake every day,” he said. “Some people are so afraid of snakes that they don’t even want to pick them up and look at them.”

If an individual detects a snake they suspect to carry mycocci, they can photograph it and convert it to a state for identification.

If you or someone you know has identified a snake suspected of carrying mycobacteria, please email Missouri Department of Conservation breeder Jeff Briggler at this address. jeff.briggler@mdc.mo.gov.

https://fox4kc.com/news/missouri-reptile-expert-warns-of-fungus-spreading-among-snake-species/ Snakes in Missouri infected with fungal disease


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