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Snakes

SFO is home to four species of snakes that live at the West-of-Bayshore property

Pacific gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer

Gopher snakes can get quite large and will eat small mammals like gophers, which is where they get their name.  Gopher snakes have a pattern similar to rattlesnakes which is good for scaring away predators, but bad when people mistake them for rattlesnakes and kill them.  Any snake can simply be avoided and it’s never necessary to kill them, but to tell the difference between a harmless gopher snake and a venomous rattlesnake, look at the head.  Rattlesnakes have a large, diamond shaped head.  Gopher snakes have a slender head similar to the width of their bodies.

Pacific ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus amabilis

Ring-necked snakes are one of the coolest looking species around.  When you first see one they just look grey, but if they get scared, they’ll coil their bright red, black-speckled belly around to face you to tell you to stay away!  Don’t worry, though, this species is harmless and small and rarely grows longer than 1 foot.  One of my favorites!

Western yellow-bellied racer, Coluber constrictor mormon

Racers get their name because they are a fast and active species that love to eat fast and active lizards.  These are beautiful snakes with gray-green backs and pastel yellow bellies.

San Francisco garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia

The endangered SF garter snake has been described as the most beautiful snake in the world.  This might be because it is so colorful, with a turquoise belly, red head, and back striped with yellow, black, and red.  This species is endangered because it only lives near water on the San Francisco peninsula and much of its home has been developed for use by people.  SFO is home to one of the few remaining populatons.  The SF garter snake prefers to eat frogs and gives birth to live young that developed in eggs inside the mother!