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Snakes by the Planes: Endangered San Francisco Species Found Thriving in Wetlands at SFO

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (CBS SF) -- An undeveloped parcel of land owned by San Francisco International Airport is home to a thriving population of an endangered snake species, a recent study revealed, airport officials said Wednesday.

The study, commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, revealed that the 180-acre parcel of wetlands and uplands sustains some 1,300 San Francisco garter snakes -- the largest concentration discovered to date.

San Francisco Garter Snakes
San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

The land, which is known as West-of-Bayshore and is off-limits to the public, is also home to the California red-legged frog. Both the California red-legged frog and the California garter snake are considered federally protected species.

"These results validate the environmental stewardship programs we have in place, to ensure endangered species can survive and thrive at SFO," SFO wildlife biologist Natalie Reeder said.

According to airport officials, SFO's own efforts have helped enhance the habitat, including an annual visit by goats for fire prevention.

Back in 2008, SFO first began its Recovery Action Plan, which aimed to stabilize or increase the snake and frog population. In 2014, SFO was recognized for its recovery efforts with an Environmental Achievement Award by Airports Council International North America.

More information about SFO's stewardship of the West-of-Bayshore property can be found at

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