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For information on Snake Fungal Disease, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation biologist
608-266-4340

Snake fungal disease (SFD)

Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) with crusty and thickened scales overlaying raised blisters as a result of a fungal skin infection, captured from island in western Lake Erie, Ohio, in August 2009 (case 22747). Photograph by D.E. Green, USGS National Wildlife Health Center.

Since 2008 and 2009, individual eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) and timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), have been found with an often fatal fungal dermatitis disease. The keratinophilic fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola has been identified in biopsies and swabs of active dermal lesions from nearly all of these snakes. In 2014, Wisconsin along with seven other states began a two-year study to identify the extent and impacts of SFD on Species of Greatest Conservation Need snakes, monitor infected snakes and determine if Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola is the sole pathogen or is acting in conjunction with other pathogens. Through this work, SFD has been confirmed in timber rattlesnakes, milksnakes and eastern foxsnakes from six counties in Wisconsin, and is suspected of occurring in several others (see map [PDF]), and Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola was recently confirmed as the primary pathogen in SFD cases (Lorch et al. 2015).

Much is still unknown about SFD and therefore several groups have developed FAQs:

Report a snake with signs of this disease

Citizens, researchers and biologists are encouraged to report all snakes with signs of this disease. If you see an infected animal, please note the following:

  • date;
  • exact location;
  • species;
  • symptoms; and
  • photographs of lesions, bumps or scabs.

Help monitor the health of Wisconsin’s wildlife by reporting your sightings of sick or dead snakes to your local DNR office.

Submit a snake for testing

Follow these steps to submit a snake for diagnostic evaluation to confirm infection. Samples for diagnostic testing are accepted on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Email the Wisconsin DNR for referral to the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC)
  2. After corresponding with the DNR and prior to submitting samples, email the NWHC

Lorch JM, Lankton J, Werner K, Falendysz EA, McCurley K, Blehert DS. 2015. Experimental infection of snakes with Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola causes pathological changes that typify snake fungal disease. mBio 6(6):e01534-15. doi:10.1128/mBio.01534-15.

Last revised: Tuesday November 07 2017