A snake-killing fungus found in Vermont is now affecting snakes in New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
Less than 10 years after detecting a snake-killing fungus, biologists worry it could be as deadly as the “white nose syndrome” found in bats. This fungus especially affects venomous species.
Doug Blodgett, a biologist for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, is on the case and studying the problem. He is specifically interested in isolated pockets with little or no genetic diversity.
“I think potentially this could overwhelm any conservation effort we could employ to try to protect this last remaining population,” said Blodgett.
In New Hampshire alone, the disease has cut this snake population in half. Only several dozen remain, so the link between the disease and mortality is even more of an issue.
The photo below shows Blodgett aiming a measuring device at one specimen.
Associated Press reporter Wilson Ring accompanied Blodgett on an expedition to find the elusive Eastern timber rattlesnake. They made sure to keep the locations secret, because they did not want curious onlookers to further endanger the snake population.
Indications of the disease include scabs and lesions on the head and other areas. Although similar reports of fungal issues in snakes from the eastern U.S. have surfaced, not all instances threaten snake populations like the one in Vermont.
“I’m at least optimistic that there are animals that are successfully surviving from year to year as well as reproducing,” said New Hampshire Fish and Game Biologist, Mike Marchand.
Biologists continue to follow the problem and hope for a solution before it’s too late.
Photos by Wilson Ring via Corbis Images