Tag Archives: Giant Garter Snake

May 15 is the 10th National Endangered Species Day

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes the 10th National Endangered Species Day with a focused environmental concern. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend to prevent extinction. Special activities are scheduled at the zoos in San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles and San Francisco, at Yosemite National Park, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, San Diego Botanic Gardens, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, Buena Vista Audubon Society Nature Center, San Francisco Zoo and Sacramento’s Beach Lake Park. Visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org to learn more. California, with all its geographic variety, has tremendous biological diversity. Our state supports more than 5,000 native plants and more than 1,000 native animal species. At least one third of the plants and two thirds of the animals here are endemic species that occur nowhere else in the world. Of all these species, more than 300 are designated by the state as rare, threatened or endangered. There are 133 species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in California. Loss of habitat, water management conflicts, invasive species, poaching and climate change are the greatest threats to their long-term survival. The combination of wildfires and extreme drought conditions in most of the state add to the pressures on our already-stressed wild plants and animals. CDFW is paying special attention to priority listed species and other sensitive native wildlife that are in areas most severely affected by the drought. Emergency drought funds support projects that transferred water to critical fish and wildlife populations that might not have survived the continuing severe dry conditions without it. Examples of actions taken last year include the flooding of wetland habitats for giant garter snakes in State Wildlife Areas and the relocation of stranded salmon and steelhead. CDFW is establishing fish and wildlife stressor monitoring to assess the drought’s effects and identify key support projects for high-priority listed species such as Amargosa vole, tri-colored blackbird, salmon and species that occur in the San Joaquin Valley. One endangered plant is Butte County meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa ssp. californica), a small annual plant that only occurs at the bottom of rocky vernal pools in Butte County. The species has been protected at CDFW’s Stone Ridge and North Table Mountain Ecological Reserves, and although several thousand plants were observed at Stone Ridge this year, only 107 plants were counted at North Table Mountain, which is open to the public and offers fantastic spring wildflower viewing. Endangered Species Day was started in 2006 by the U.S. Senate to raise awareness of and celebrate these disappearing plant and animal species, and draw attention to successful recovery programs and opportunities for the public to get involved. It also honors the people who uphold the legacy of the Act while inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders. To learn more about CDFW’s drought-related actions to protect California’s fish and wildlife, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/drought.

Gray owl on tree branch
A great gray owl in Sierra National Forest near Oakhurst. Chris Stermer/CDFW photo
Orange and yellow globe-like flower
Pitkin marsh lily, (lilium pardalinum), a state-listed endangered species. Roxanne Bittman/DFG photo
gray freshwater fish with salmon-colored sides and gills in clear stream
Rare Paiute cutthroat trout in a remote Alpine County stream. CDFW photo.
A red fox with black legs and ears, sitting in snow
Sierra Nevada red fox, in Sonora Pass area, Mono County. CDFW photo
A light brown vole in a gloved hand
Captive Amargosa vole. Don Preisler/UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Western pond turtle on dry gravel
Western pond turtle. Christina Sousa/CDFW photo
a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.
Tan and brown giant garter snake
Female, standard brown giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo

Media Contacts: Daniel Applebee, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (209) 588-1879 Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

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

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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.