Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) is a newly described pathogen in Ontario associated with the fungus; Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola.
The first confirmed case of SFD in Ontario was from the southern shores of Lake Erie in March of 2015 – being an Eastern Foxsnake (Pantherophis gloydi). There now has been 4 confirmed cases of the disease in Ontario, including 3 Eastern Foxsnakes (Pantherophis gloydi) and 1 Queensnake (Regina septemvittata). Both of these species are listed as Endangered in the province. This disease has the potential to cause great harm to our local snake populations, as it already has in some of the eastern United States (causing up to 50% population decline).
In May of 2016, I visited a hibernaculum utilized by Gray Ratsnakes (Pantherophis spiloides) here in Eastern Ontario. In a short time, I observed 4 individuals that had just emerged which were basking in the sun. Upon further inspection, I realized that 2 of the larger snakes were in rough shape (pictured above). After hearing about the first confirmed case of the disease in Ontario just months before, instantly it crossed my mind. With the condition of the snakes looking scarily alike SFD, I knew that this needed to be reported.
If one observes a snake suspected to be infected with the disease, they are encouraged to send in the observation to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. Also, DO NOT handle the animal as this could lead to a further spread of the disease.
The condition causes thickening, crusting and death of the epidermis – in some cases leading to death. Things to look for are lesions and sores on the snakes body, particularly around the face and head area.
Check out the new “Snake Fungal Disease in Canada Rapid Threat Assessment” by the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative!