Thousands of parasites, including at least 250 mite species, plague wild reptiles. Snakes and lizards can carry mites with relatively little trouble, but their numbers can build up to plague proportions in captivity. The snake mite (Ophionyssus natricis), is by far the most common mite seen in captive snakes, but it is unlikely to cause pet dogs, cats or birds any trouble.
So-called snake mites are tiny arthropods who feed on lizards as well. Geckos and other smooth-scaled species are typically less susceptible to snake mites, as the mites have trouble accessing the lizards’ skin. Scientists, veterinarians and zookeepers have identified these mites living on crocodilians and turtles, though it is exceedingly rare. A 1975 article published in “British Journal of Dermatolgy” documented a human family that suffered bites from snake mites; but given the number of captive snakes kept around the world and the paucity of similar cases suggests this is a rare phenomenon.
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images