Prevalence of Snake Fungal Disease at a Rehabilitated Site (Landfill) and Undisturbed Site (Forest) in East Tennessee
Ophidiomycosis (snake fungal disease; SFD) is a disease of conservation concern caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola and threatens the health of snake populations in the United States. Gaps exist in the understanding regarding the prevalence of this disease across landscapes. This study aimed to compare the prevalence of ophidiomycosis between an undisturbed forest site (n=93) and a rehabilitated site (reclaimed landfill; n=53) in Oak Ridge, TN. Snakes were examined for the presence of lesions consistent with ophidiomycosis and swabbed to detect O. ophiodiicola DNA using quantitative PCR. A swab of the entire body surface was collected, and an additional lesion swab was collected if lesions were observed. Snakes were released within 24 h of capture at the site where they were found. Apparent ophidiomycosis (qPCR positive and clinical signs) was confirmed at both sites, but there was no significant difference in prevalence between the two sites (24.7% at the undisturbed site; 22.6% at the rehabilitated site). Ophidiomycosis was most prevalent in rat snakes, Pantherophis obsoletus, (38%) and ringneck snakes, Diadophis punctatus, (26%) and least prevalent in smooth earthsnakes, Virginia valeriae, and watersnakes, Nerodia sipedon, (0%). There was no difference in ophidiomycosis status between sites for the most commonly sampled species: racers, Coluber constrictor, rat snakes, Pantherophis obsoletus, or ringneck snakes, Diadophis punctatus. This represents the first report of ophidiomycosis in these sites in Tennessee. The findings indicate that either O. ophiodiicola is ubiquitous across the landscape or habitat rehabilitation efforts have achieved a similar plane of quality as native habitat.