Between September 1997 and March 1998, a severe skin, eye, and mouth disease was observed in a population of dusky pigmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri), at the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in Volusia County, Florida (USA). Three affected pigmy rattlesnakes were submitted for necropsy. All snakes had severe necrotizing and predominantly granulomatous dermatitis, stomatitis, and ophthalmitis, with involvement of the subadjacent musculature and other soft tissues. Numerous fungal hyphae were seen throughout tissue sections stained with periodic acid Schiff and Gomori's methenamine silver. Samples of lesions were cultured for bacteria and fungi. Based on hyphae and spore characteristics, four species of fungi were identified from culture: Sporothrix schenckii, Pestalotia pezizoides, Geotrichum candidum (Galactomyces geotrichum), and Paecilomyces sp. While no additional severely affected pigmy rattlesnakes were seen at the study site, a garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and a ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritis) with similar lesions were found. In 1998 and 1999, 42 pigmy rattlesnakes with multifocal minimal to moderate subcutaneous masses were seen at the study site. Masses from six of these snakes were biopsied in the field. Hyphae morphologically similar to those seen in the severe cases were observed with fungal stains. Analysis of a database representing 10,727 captures in previous years was performed after the 1998 outbreak was recognized. From this analysis we determined that 59 snakes with clinical signs similar to those seen during the 1998 outbreak were documented between 1992 and 1997. This study represents the first documented report of a mycotic disease of free-ranging snakes.
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Vol. 39 • No. 2