Make your next road trip more beautiful by visiting endangered species murals in California

‘Tis the season for long drives to visit extended family and long-time friends. Inevitably, you’ll have to make a pitstop. You could stop at the roadside gas station or you could stretch your legs while taking in some beautiful artwork. Across California, artists have painted murals featuring endangered species. Join us as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act by visiting one of these murals – some make a great selfie spot! Tag your pic #ESA50. Here’s a few to add to your road trip route. 

Marbled murrelet

Backside of 280 E Street (Intersection of US 101 South and Samoa Boulevard), Arcata, CA 

Stretching more than 250 feet, a mural in the California coastal town of Arcata painted by artist Lucas Thornton features the  marbled murrelet, a seabird listed as threatened under the ESA. About the size of a chubby robin, the marbled murrelet can be found from Canada to California. Its numbers are dwindling due to low reproductive rates and loss of nesting habitat. The Service is working with partners to monitor populations of the bird and look for ways to help its populations recover.

Western snowy plover 

830 S Street, Sacramento, CA

The tall buildings in downtown Sacramento don’t exactly conjure up images of shorebirds, but the Western snowy plover is the star of a wall on the corner of The Nature Conservancy’s office. The shorebird is only about 6 inches long, and its thin dark bill, pale brown to gray back and white belly help it blend in with the coastal sand dunes it calls home. Invasive grasses and ice plant have taken over many of the sand dunes along the California coast, giving coverage to predators that prey on the birds, including coyotes, foxes, and domestic cats and dogs. Several dedicated organizations and volunteer groups are working to improve nesting habitat for the bird by restoring the dunes and removing the invasive plants. These efforts also help build the resilience of the sand dunes as rising sea levels threaten shorelines and habitat. This mural is part of the Audubon Mural Project, which aims to bring visibility to birds that are impacted by climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
. The mural was painted by Jonathan Martinez in collaboration with Audubon California and Wide Open Walls.

San Francisco garter snake

5400 Hollis Street, Emeryville, CA

Slithering down one of Emeryville’s main streets, an incredibly realistic looking San Francisco garter snake pops from a building wall. Painted by artist Sonny Sundancer, the San Francisco garter snake mural captures the snake’s rich colors of red, bright greenish-blue, black and cream. Due to its beautiful coloring, one of the biggest threats to the species is illegal trapping and sale in the pet trade. The snake is listed as endangered.

Western monarch butterfly

455 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA

Have you ever seen a 50-foot-tall monarch butterfly? Now you can! The monarch, which is currently a candidate species for listing, is seen softly landing on a California poppy on the side of a building in San Francisco. Each year, Western monarch butterflies travel from the Rocky Mountains to the California coast. It takes four generations of butterflies to complete its entire life cycle, which includes this 1,000-mile journey – quite a feat for any creature, let alone a butterfly! This mural, known as “Le Papillon,” is part of the Migrating Mural series that showcases species in the places where their migration routes intersect with the human world. The mural was designed and developed by artists Jane Kim and Thayer Walker as part of a collaboration Veritas, Bay Area art studio Ink Dwell and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. This building also contains a smaller mural and artwork on the entryway to the building and garage featuring some of the 34 species of butterflies found around San Francisco.    

Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep

Multiple locations on the Highway 395 Corridor in California (Lone Pine Airport in Lone Pine, Mount Williamson Hotel in Independence, and Sage to Summit in Bishop)

Heading to the eastern part of California? Highway 395 provides breathtaking views of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range where endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep roam. The historical range of this subspecies of bighorn sheep stretches from Olancha Peak in the south to Sonora Pass in the north. These bighorn sheep live at elevations ranging from 4,000-14,000 feet and have adapted to live in harsh mountain conditions. Predation, environmental factors and concern of disease transmission from domestic sheep pose challenges to the species' recovery. Catching a glimpse of these alpine dwellers is quite rare, but luckily, there are a few murals of the sheep painted by artist Jane Kim along the 395 corridor to enjoy: Lone Pine Airport in Lone Pine, The Mount Williamson Hotel in Independence and Sage to Summit in Bishop. The artwork is also part of the Migrating Mural project and was funded by the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation.