San Francisco Airport Protects Endangered Species Until it Boasts More of Them Than Any Place on Earth
Beyond the tarmac of SFO airport lives a thriving population of endangered San Francisco garter snakes, one of the most beautiful on earth.
One of the most beautiful of its species, the garter snake that inhabits the San Francisco peninsula is also the most endangered of its kind. Fortunately for the California serpent, it has human protectors who have given it a safe haven near the runways of the San Francisco International Airport.
The San Francisco garter snake (thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia), which can grow to three-feet in length, has skin that looks like a black canvas painted with racing stripes of bright orange and neon turquoise.
As the Bay Area has grown and developed, the wetland habitat that is needed to sustain the harmless snake has diminished, so the animal was listed as endangered 54 years ago. Brutal droughts have also thinned its population, and that of their prey, as well.
While the snake is mostly isolated around the San Francisco peninsula, they are thriving in numbers near the tarmac of the airport known as SFO.
A tract of 160 privately-owned acres has been put to work to save the beautiful reptile, including the construction of many small ponds where the snake can keep moist, breed, and hunt for its favorite prey: the red-legged frog—which is also endangered and given sanctuary on the SFO runway lawn.