Airport biologist works to save the SF garter snake / Club Deluxe reopens with full lineup

It's Thursday, July 1.

SFO biologist Natalie Reeder stands under a BART overpass in an area just west of the airport that’s protected for the endangered San Francisco garter snake. 

Hey there, San Francisco. 

On Wednesday, I met up with Natalie Reeder, who holds one of the more interesting titles I’ve ever come across: biologist for the San Francisco International Airport. 

Besides trying to keep red-tail hawks, barn owls, and sea lions out of the way of massive airliners, Reeder’s also responsible for making sure the endangered San Francisco garter snake thrives in a nearby protected wetland that’s owned by SFO. The city’s namesake snake has been on the endangered species list since the list itself originated in 1967.

“Over there [at the airport] we want fewer animals,” Reeder told me. “Over here, I’m trying to make more animals.” 

And it’s working. As we covered in The Minute a couple of weeks back, a recent study found that the 180-acre parcel just west of SFO is home to an estimated 1,300 San Francisco garter snakes, which makes it the highest concentration of the subspecies...anywhere. Reeder said there are other SF garter communities on the peninsula, like near Crystal Springs Reservoir, Mindego, and Mori Point in Pacifica, but their populations are much smaller, ranging from around 50 to 200 snakes in each location.  

(Note: San Francisco garter snakes aren’t actually found in the city, but in pockets on the peninsula, like the ones mentioned above.) 

The amazing, San Francisco garter snake slithers around on the property near SFO. We, unfortunately, didn’t see any on our trip. This photo was taken back in 2019 by John Kunna.

I’m deathly afraid of snakes myself, but I think the San Francisco garter (with its turquoise and reddish-orange stripes) is beautiful. Reeder thinks so too.

She’s loved snakes, though, ever since seeing one in her Potrero Hill backyard at age two. “Snakes are the ultimate underdog,” she said. “They have no arms and no legs, and everybody hates them.” 

While getting her master’s degree at SF State, Reeder studied frogs, not snakes. But that turned out to be just the right background for someone working to protect the garter snake since it primarily subsists on croakers. Much of her time today, she said, is spent on maintaining frog populations in the protected airport property. 

Reeder picked up a Sierran treefrog, which San Francisco garter snakes (especially the babies) love to eat. The garters also feed on larger, California red-legged frogs.

Moving forward, Reeder said she’ll continue to track the number of garters near SFO, though she has some concerns tied to climate change. During our interview, we stood in a dry pond bed, which resulted from low rainfall this year. Less water means fewer frogs, and fewer frogs means fewer garter snakes. Reeder also spoke about rising sea levels and how increased salinity in nearby water sources could impact frogs, which once again, could impact the garter. 

As for her role, Reeder said it wasn’t too uncommon for airports to work with biologists (since there’s often undeveloped space around runways), but not all have a dedicated expert on their payrolls. Reeder became SFO’s first official staff biologist in 2015, and since, she’s enjoyed being able to work outside, in the field, almost year-round. 

“I have a hard time transitioning back into office work,” she said. 

And with that...onto some news… 

Quick bits: 

  • 🗣 On Wednesday, District Attorney Chesa Boudin introduced a new policy that will require his office “to ask, and then use, the correct names, pronouns, and titles for transgender and nonbinary crime victims, witnesses, and the accused,” the Bay Area Reporter wrote. Boudin’s office, which became the first in the state (and second in the country) to enact such guidelines, will continue to list legal names “secondarily on all charging documents for purposes of criminal record-keeping,” according to a press release. (Bay Area Reporter

  • 🚆 About a month earlier than expected, BART will extend its service from 9 pm to midnight on all days (except Sunday) starting on August 2. Also, starting on July 15, there will be some trains that run at 11:30 pm. (SFist

  • 🚧 The owners of the popular Outer Sunset restaurant Old Mandarin Islamic spent around $6,000 last summer to construct their outdoor parklet. But this week, they said, PG&E forced them to take it down because the company is working to update nearby natural gas lines. 

    “I tried my best to talk to them because I really didn’t want to tear down my parklet. I tried to keep it until the end of this year, you know?” the restaurant owner said. “We haven’t opened fully for indoor yet.” (Eater

  • 💄 Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand “Goop” has officially closed its Pac Heights retail location, citing the pandemic and an increased focus on e-commerce as reasons for shuttering. The store opened on Fillmore Street in November 2019. (Chronicle

  • 🛶 A team of four rowers, led by a 39-year-old leadership development coach from Danville, set a new speed record for crossing the Pacific when their rig reached Waikiki on Wednesday. The crew had left San Francisco just 30 days prior, crushing the previous record by nine days. 

    “I like to say, the thought of glory is what brings you to these rows, but glory is not what takes you through the finish,” Jason Caldwell, the crew lead, said. “When you’re halfway through and want to quit, it’s the guilt and shame of not living up to your teammates’ expectations that’s what makes you actually do it.” (Chronicle

And finally… 

Club Deluxe is back! And perhaps, better than ever. As spotted by Broke-Ass Stuart, the Haight Street jazz/swing/cabaret bar reopens on Thursday and, at least for the month of July, will have live music every single night! 

Here’s a link to their band schedule. I’ll see you there! 

That’s all for today! Thanks so much for reading y’all and we’ll see you back here tomorrow for our weekend guide. If you’re traveling for the holiday, have an awesome time and be safe out there! - Nick B. 

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