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Snakes in Trouble :

January 19, 2018

When we first moved into our house in 1996, evenings often included a spectacular wildlife show. Bats would emerge from the barns and the noise made by the frogs and toads in the pond was incredible.

When we first moved into our house in 1996, evenings often included a spectacular wildlife show. Bats would emerge from the barns and the noise made by the frogs and toads in the pond was incredible. There were so many American toads in the high grass around our home that my second son became an expert toad catcher early in his life. We saw snakes all along the stone walls and our well housing always had several. While no new houses have been built close to us, over the past many years, we have noticed a tremendous decline in the number of animals. We first noticed the almost complete disappearance of the toad and frog population. In the evening, the pond was eerily quiet. Bats seemed much rarer. Now, we are not seeing nearly as many snakes. As reported byThe New York Times, all population declines may be due to fungal infections. Best described is the whitenose syndrome, a fungal infection of bats that has decimated bat populations across the US and Canada.

While I am not sure what led to the annihilation of our local amphibian population, the fungal infection chytridiomycosis has killed millions of frogs since the late 1990s. It turns out the snakes may be next animal in danger of devastation due to a fungal infection. Snakes of many different species are becoming infected with a fungus called Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola. The fungus may simply cause sores but also can lead to rapid death. Some snake populations have been devastated. Unfortunately, it is unclear how the fungus is spread or how to prevent continued transmission. As for us, not all the news is bad. Last summer we saw more toads than in the past few years and we are pretty sure that bats have returned to our attic. While most homeowners would not be thrilled by that prospect, for me it is a sign that the local wildlife population may be rebounding, and I am happy about that.

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