CDFW Completes Emergency Restoration Project to Save Giant Garter Snakes in Sacramento County

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Media Contacts:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Eric Kleinfelter, CDFW Environmental Scientist, (209) 744-1598

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed an emergency restoration project at the Cosumnes River Preserve to help save a state and federal threatened species, the giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas).

Snake Marsh at the Cosumnes River Preserve is home to a genetically unique population of giant garter snakes. With two consecutive years of drought, there was a significant chance of the marsh ponds drying up, potentially causing severe impacts to the snakes.

“The project consisted of well water being pumped into the marsh and the ponds where the snakes live. It was planned and carried-out on CDFW land that is part of the Preserve,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Eric Kleinfelter. “We had very dedicated contractors and department staff who completed this project in just one month. The Nature Conservancy also played an important role by funding a hydrologic study that showed just how vulnerable to drought this aquatic system is. It was truly a collaborative effort.”

Endemic to California’s Central Valley, the non-venomous giant garter snake is olive to black in color with light yellowish stripes on each side and can grow from three to five feet long. Secretive and difficult to find, this aquatic snake will quickly drop into the water from its basking site before the observer can get close. When threatened, it will excrete a foul-smelling musk. It feeds primarily on fish, frogs and tadpoles and can live up to 12 years.

Located approximately 25 miles south of Sacramento near Galt, the Cosumnes River Preserve consists of approximately 48,000 acres of wildlife habitat and agricultural lands. The Preserve is buffered by a variety of agricultural operations and provides numerous social, economic and recreational benefits to local communities residing in the larger Sacramento and San Joaquin areas. The habitat supports many species of native wildlife, including greater and lesser Sandhill cranes, Swainson’s hawks and waterfowl that migrate throughout the Pacific Flyway.

Preserve ownership includes seven partners: The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, CDFW, Sacramento County, Department of Water Resources, Ducks Unlimited, and the California State Lands Commission. The Preserve is centered along the Cosumnes River, its floodplains, and riparian habitat. For more information about the Cosumnes River Preserve, please visit http://www.cosumnes.org.