Narrow-headed And Northern Mexican Garter Snakes To Receive Critical Habitat
April 27, 2020
The Trump Administration was sued last winter for failing to protect the two snake species.
Narrow-headed garter snake. Photo courtesy of Pierson Hill
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect critical habitat for the narrow-headed garter snake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus) and the northern Mexican garter snake (Thamnophis eques megalops), but at a far smaller number of acres that the USFWS proposed in 2013. The service announced that it wants to protect 18,701 acres of critical habitat for the narrow-headed garter snake and and 27,784 acres. The proposal is due in part to a lawsuit filed against the Trump Administration in December 2018 for not acting on its 2013 proposal to protect 420,000 acres of critical habitat for these reptiles.
“It’s disappointing that the latest proposal safeguards far less habitat than previously outlined, but we’re relieved these snakes will finally get some protected acreage,” Jenny Loda, a Center for Biological Diversity biologist and attorney said in a statement released by the Center. “These two snakes have been close to extinction for years. Safeguarding the riverbanks where they live will also help people and other native wildlife that need healthy waterways.”
A Brief History
The northern Mexican garter snake and the narrow-headed garter snake were granted Endangered Species Act protections in 2014, after the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 2000s. While the government gave the reptiles protections, critical habitat for the snakes was not protected, even though the USFWS proposed protecting more than 420,000 acres of critical habitat for the snakes in 2013. The protection for the habitat was never finalized.
Narrow-headed Garter Snake
The narrow-headed garter snake is greenish brown, blue grey, or olive grey in coloration with brown, orange or black spots on its back. It grows to 34 inches in length and spends most of its time in bodies of water searching for prey items such as small trout and other fish. It is found in high elevation streams in northern and eastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
Northern Mexican Garter Snake
The larger northern Mexican garter snake grows to 44 inches in length and can be found in 13 counties in Arizona and four counties in New Mexico. It is also found in 16 states in Mexico. Its coloration ranges from olive-brown to olive-gray and has three stripes that run down the length of its back. It is also found in and near bodies of water such as wetlands and riparian river systems and streams and in tall grassy areas. It feeds on amphibians, fish, and lizards.