Snake Fungal Disease Now Present In South Carolina
South Carolina is the latest state to have confirmed the presence of Snake Fungal Disease on a wild reptile. In October 2013, a copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) tested positive for SFD. It was found in Spartanburg County exhibiting symptoms of the disease. It later died and a necropsy by the NWFC confirmed the presence of SFD.
While the Chytrid fungus and its effect on worldwide amphibian populations has received a lot of press the last several years, SFD has been quietly taking its toll on wild snakes in certain areas of the United States, according to the United States Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center. The disease is currently limited to the eastern and midwestern United States and is often associated with Ophidiomyces (formerly Chrysosporium) ophiodiicola, a fungus, but is not the definitive cause of SFD. This fungus is most often seen in bearded dragons and other captive reptiles but rarely is it seen in the wild. The NWFC has so far collected evidence of the fungus on snakes in 10 states, (Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin), on several types of non-venomous and venomous snakes, including the northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon), eastern racer (Coluber constrictor), rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus species complex), timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus), pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius), and milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum).
The signs of infection include scabs or crusted scales, separation of the outermost layer of skin, white opaque cloudiness of the eyes, skin ulcers, swelling in the face, and thickening of the skin, among other signs. The NWHC is working with other agencies, studying this disease and its potential impact on snake populations in the eastern and midwestern United States.