The garter snake was purchased from a legal source in November 2005. He is very quick and enjoys hiding in his log, empty turtle shell or under his water dish. He often peers at us while we are working in his enclosure or preparing to feed him. He is very comical to watch. He eats one pinkie mouse every week in the spring and summer months.
They can be found in meadows, marshes, woodlands, and hillsides and prefer moist, grassy environments. Garter snakes are often found near water and are common in suburban and urban areas with plenty of places to hide. Highly adaptable, they can survive extreme environmental conditions.
18 - 54 inches
Garter snakes are highly variable in color and pattern. Typically they have three light stripes (can be white, yellow, blue, greenish, or brown) that run along the length of the body on a black, brown, gray, or olive background. One stripe runs down the center of the snakeís back, the other two run alongside the central stripe. Sometimes these stripes are poorly defined or absent. Some garter snakes have alternating rows of dark spots that run along the stripes making the stripes look more like checkerboard patterns of light, rather than lines. The head is wider than the neck and is uniformly dark. The tongue is red, tipped in black. The scales are keeled (with a raised ridge along the length of the scale). The chin, throat and belly are usually the color of the stripes. There are dozens of recognized regional populations that have distinct color patterns. Some areas have a high percentage of entirely black garter snakes. Close relatives include ribbon snakes, and Butlerís garter snakes.
They eat earthworms, amphibians, leeches, slugs, snails, insects, small fish, and other snakes. Garter snakes are immune to the toxic skin of toads, so toads can be eaten without harm. More rare diets include small mammals, lizards, or baby birds. They find their prey using their excellent sense of smell and vision. Hunting techniques include peering, craning and ambushing to capture prey. Sharp teeth and quick reflexes immobilize the prey. Their saliva may be slightly toxic to small prey items, which makes it easier for them to handle the prey while it is being eaten. Similar to other snakes, food is swallowed whole.
Mating begins in the spring as soon as the snake emerges from hibernation. Males leave the den first, and wait for the females to exit. Once the females leave the den, the males surround them. The males give off pheromones which attract the females. After mating, a female returns to her summer habitat to feed and to find a proper birth place. The males stay to re-mate with other available females. Females have the ability to store a maleís sperm until it is needed, and thus a female may not mate if she does not find a proper partner. Gestation is 2 - 3 months. Late summer or early fall, the female gives birth to 7-85 live young which are immediately independent and must forage on their own. Common garter snakes become sexually mature at 1.5 years (males) and 2 years (females).
Approximately 2 years in the wild; 6 - 10 years in captivity
- They are often mistakenly called garden snakes, and the common garter snake is the most commonly encountered snake throughout its range.
- Common garter snakes communicate primarily through touch and smell. Using their forked tongue, they collect chemicals from the air and deposit them into a special organ in the roof of their mouth which interprets these chemical signals, or pheromones. Pheromones can be used as tracking devices; they can locate other snakes or trails left by other snakes. Snakes are also sensitive to vibrations and have reasonably good vision.
- These snakes are one of the few kinds of animals that can eat toads, newts and other amphibians with strong chemical defenses.