Disease events are threatening wildlife populations across North America. Specifically, mortality events due to Ophidiomyces (snake fungal disease; SFD) have been observed recently in snakes in Illinois, US. We investigated the health of a population of eastern massasaugas (Sistrurus catenatus) in south-central Illinois using 1) a meta-analysis of hematologic findings from 2004, 2011, 2013, and 2014; 2) a determination of the prevalence of SFD in snakes examined in 2013 and 2014; and 3) the examination of 184 museum specimens collected from 1999–2013 for signs and presence of SFD. For the meta-analysis and prevalence of SFD, hematologic analytes were reduced to three principle components that explained 67.5% of the cumulative variance. There were significant differences among one principle component (total white blood cell counts, monocytes, lymphocytes, and basophils) across years when it was highest in 2004 and 2014. The top general linear model explaining the difference in principle components included the main effects of year and stage, body condition index (BCI), and the interaction between stage and BCI. The prevalence of SFD was 18% (n=7) in 2013 and 24% (n=11) in 2014, and no hematologic analytes were associated with SFD. In museum specimens, Ophidiomyces DNA was first detected from an individual collected in 2000. Studies such as these, integrating multiple modalities of health, can elucidate the epidemiology of diseases that may pose conservation threats.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2