The first case of "snake fungal disease" has been spotted in California, an ailment that causes snakes to become emaciated and have crusted scales.
The snake, which was spotted in Plymouth, Amador County, "was found by a member of the public on the side of the road and submitted for rehabilitation to Tri County Wildlife Care," according to a statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
The CDFW added that the snake was "humanely euthanized" and sent for a post-mortem examination where the fungus that causes snake fungal disease (SFD), Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, was detected.
The disease causes the snakes to look like "mummies" according to Live Science, which first reported the news. SFD is not always life-threatening, the CDFW continued, noting that visible signs include "scabs, skin ulcers or nodules, crusted scales, discolored scales, cloudy eyes and a swollen or disfigured face."
"In addition, this week the fungus was detected on the skin and in tissues from a Florida watersnake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris) found deceased and collected by CDFW from Folsom, Sacramento County, suggesting the original case was not isolated," the CDFW added.
The CDFW said that the emaciated state of the snakes is possibly "due to [a] decreased ability to capture prey." They also "rest in open, unprotected areas where they are exposed to adverse weather and predators."
The government agency notes that the disease can be transmitted in different ways: via skin abrasions or direct contact with other infected snakes or mothers who pass it to their offspring in certain species.
SFD, which is not transferable from snakes to humans, was first spotted in 2008. Since then, it has been spotted in more than 30 snakes species across Europe and the U.S., where it is present in "at least 23 states." In 2018, it was detected in Idaho and in southern Ontario, Canada.
Different species of snakes are afflicted differently. "Significant mortalities" have been seen in the Timber rattlesnake and Eastern Massasauga, but others "may only exhibit mild infections," the agency concluded.