Understanding risk factors associated with reintroductions is important for making informed decisions within an adaptive framework. Biosecurity measures minimizing the risk of the introduction or spread of transmissible diseases are a priority when considering the release of captive-reared wildlife. Eastern indigo snake (EIS; Drymarchon couperi) reintroductions have been occurring in Alabama since 2010 and in Florida since 2017. During this effort the pathogen Cryptosporidium serpentis was detected, affecting several of the captive breeding snakes. Infected snakes were quarantined and removed from breeding efforts, which reduced snakes available for the reintroduction projects. To make informed management decisions about future reintroduction strategies, 155 free-ranging snakes were sampled at the two release sites and a third site in Georgia to evaluate the natural occurrence of C. serpentis. Additionally, 72 free-ranging EIS and other species incidentally encountered throughout the EIS range were tested opportunistically. All snakes sampled at the three focal sites tested negative, but one opportunistically tested EIS from South Florida tested positive. These results indicate that C. serpentis is present in the environment in at least one location, but at low levels. Our results suggest that, pending additional surveillance, C. serpentispositive snakes should not be included in reintroduction efforts, and that maintaining a high level of biosecurity is important in captive breeding programs.

You do not currently have access to this content.