San Francisco garter snakes — one of the rarest, arguably most breathtaking reptiles in the United States — were once thought to number as little as a thousand examples in the wild; some 1,300 more are now believed to exist on a 180-acre parcel of wetlands near SFO.
Climate change continues to exist as the single biggest threat to biodiversity. The very survivability of our planet teeters on how we humans, the dominant species on this space rock, decide to address the pressing environmental catastrophe — one already dwindling the populations of some Bay Area flora and fauna. In a spat of good news, however, a recent study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that the small plot of land near the San Francisco airport could hold as many as 1,300 more San Francisco garter snakes — essentially more than doubling their current observed population count and the largest concentration of these limbless ectotherms found to date.
Who else is feeling the heat this week? 😰☀️— U.S. Fish and Wildlife (@USFWS) June 17, 2021
Ever wondered how wildlife deal with hot weather? Well lucky for you, we've got answers! Swim in some sand, hibernate in a cool spot — learn how they cope with the summer sun: https://t.co/vVuGC4G98Z
Per KTVU, the thousand-plus mesmeric serpents reside near the airport's West-of-Bayshore private property, located across the highway from the airport's terminal complex. The area, itself, is ideal habitat for the endangered reptiles, which thrive in both riparian wetlands and marshes where they can hunt their prey of choice: amphibians and small invertebrates, like slugs and certain freshwater crustaceans. Not-so-coincidentally enough, the slice of San Francisco the snakes were discovered on also houses steady numbers of the threatened California red-legged frog — a staple part of their diet, the two species often existing in tandem as markers for the health of environments they occupy.
"These results validate the environmental stewardship programs we have in place to ensure endangered species can survive and thrive at SFO (San Francisco/Oakland)," SFO wildlife biologist Natalie Reeder in a press release.
Because of the presence of these federally protected snakes, human manipulation of the land is strictly prohibited. But an annual visit by goats for fire prevention is still expected to occur before the year's end.
Related: Record Heat Is Bringing Out Snakes (Watch Out!) 
Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons