Common Garter Snake Facts

Common garter snake facts are amazing.

The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is a species of snake that is native to the regions of North America and is known to reside throughout a wide variety of habitats. They belong to the genus Thamnophis. They are generally small-sized snakes with longitudinal stripes of a wide range of colors of blue, green, yellow, running down their body.  These are not generally considered to be venomous snakes and are often found near water habitats. Common garter snakes hibernate during the winter when they can be found in large numbers in dens. In times of warm winter mornings, they move out of their dens, from hibernation, to bask in the sun which helps them to regulate their body temperature. Garter snakes are ovoviviparous by nature, which means females give birth to live young ones. A female can give birth to 12 to 40 young ones at a time. They have sharp teeth and quick reflexes which help them to immobilize their prey, which is generally other smaller animals. This snake species, like all other species of snake, are known to swallow their food whole.

If you are fascinated by the common garter snake, then you may want to read the following amazing facts about them. If you want to learn more about different animals, you can read up on prairie rattlesnake and golden tree snake.

Common Garter Snake

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small animals and amphibians

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

5.3 oz (150 g).

How long are they?

22 in (55 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Blue, green, yellow, dark brown, and black

Skin Type

Dry scales

What are their main threats?

Habitat loss

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Sea, land, and mountains


North America, Florida, and Canada





Scientific Name

Thamnophis sirtalis





Common Garter Snake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a common garter snake?

The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is a species of snake that is native to the regions of North America. It belongs to the genus Thamnophis.

What class of animal does a common garter snake belong to?

The common garter snake belongs to the Reptilia class of animals.

How many common garter snakes are there in the world?

According to several estimates, the population of garter snakes in the wild exceeds 1 million. Their population has remained stable over the years.

Where does a common garter snake live?

The common garter snake can be found throughout different parts of the world ranging from Florida to Canada, depending upon the subspecies of this animal. They are native to the regions of North America.

What is a common garter snake's habitat?

This snake species can be found throughout a wide variety of habitats like forests, wetlands, and other water habitats like ponds. They generally tend to live in underground holes or under logs, or any place where they feel secure enough to rest during the night.

Who do common garter snakes live with?

This species of snakes are solitary creatures. However, during hibernation, common garter snakes can be found hibernating in warms regions by forming large groups.

How long does a common garter snake live?

The life span of an average common garter snake can range from four to five years. However, they can live up to 10 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

This species of snakes are ovoviviparous by nature which means they give birth to live young. Birthing occurs during the months of July to October. Their mating process is quite unique. Males of this species are known to trick other males to avoid competition. Males will give off pheromones and other males will believe it to be a real female and move in search of that female. By doing this, males can fool the other males in the group and breed with the female. Females can give birth to 12 to 40 young ones at a time.

What is their conservation status?

Common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) are currently listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Habitat loss is one of the main threats to their population. However, the population of common garter snakes has remained pretty stable.  

Common Garter Snake Fun Facts

What do common garter snakes look like?

Common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) are thin by width and small in length. Their bodies are covered with long stripes of a variety of colors. They have a wide range of body colors like blue, green gold, orange, dark brown, black, yellow, to name a few.

Common garter snakes are diurnal by nature.

How cute are they?

Although common garter snakes are not cute, they are beautiful especially because of the variety of colors of their bodies like yellow, green, and black. They also have long stripes running down their body which enhances their beauty further. However, according to the belief that all snakes are dangerous, people are sure to be frightened or scared when encountered by one a species of snake.

How do they communicate?

Common garter snakes communicate with each other by releasing a chemical substance through their body which is known as pheromones. These pheromones are detected by other snakes to help understand the message. This is especially done during the mating process, when males sometimes release a fake female pheromone to dupe the others into believing there is another female somewhere away from their den or burrow. It is done to reduce competition during the mating season.

How big is a common garter snake?

The average length of a common garter snake found in the wild is 22 in (55 cm). The maximum length attained by a snake of this species was known to be 54 in (137 cm). They are smaller in size than the kingsnake.

How fast can a common garter snake run?

The common garter snake can be fast when they are trying to move away from a possible threat. The movement of the common garter snake in the face of danger varies from one individual to another. While some will stand their ground and revert back to their predator, others will flee as fast as they can from the area to save themselves. Males have been known to exhibit the second behavior and flee or run away from their predators as fast as they can.

How much does a common garter snake weigh?

The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is typically thin and its average weight is 5.3 oz (150 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no gender-specific name for common garter snakes or any other species of snakes. Males are referred to as male common garter snakes and females are known as female common garter snakes.

What would you call a baby common garter snake?

A young common garter snake goes by the name of a snakelet.

What do they eat?

Common garter snakes are known to feed on a variety of small prey which may range from amphibians like earthworms to birds and rodents. Fish and other fast-moving prey are also known to form a significant part of their diet. They have sharp teeth and pretty fast reflexes which help them to catch hold of their prey and swallow them whole, like all other species of snake. Garter snakes may also eat mice, and they are able to eat larger prey by unhinging their jaw from their skill to make it wider.

Are they poisonous?

Common garter snakes are mildly venomous. The venom present in their saliva is toxic or threatening for small animals and amphibians, but not so much for humans. A bite from a common garter snake can cause swelling or itching, but all these reactions are of mild intensity.

Would they make a good pet?

No, common garter snakes should not be kept as a pet at all. Although this snake does not possess any life-threatening venom for human beings, a bite from it can cause skin itching or swelling of that particular area where it has bitten. Moreover, they do not do so well with humans and can also release a foul-smelling fluid from their body when they feel threatened. It is also illegal to keep the common garter snake as a pet in many areas. The best possible way to take care of them is to let them fend for themselves in the wild.

Did you know...

Having garter snakes in the yard can turn out to be beneficial for the owners if their numbers are kept under check. They may help to get rid of insects and other pests that can destroy plants. However, having too many can also be disadvantageous. They do not possess the ability to differentiate between good bugs and bad bugs. Therefore, they can do more harm than good.

There has been no known evidence of garter snakes killing rattlesnakes. However, they are known to kill mice and feed on them.

You are most likely to see a garter snake during the warmer parts of the day, basking in the sun which helps it to regulate its body temperature.

Garter snakes live in holes and burrows that have been made by other animals. They don't create these holes themselves.

A large number of animals like raccoons, hawks, foxes, and other larger snakes are known to feed on common garter snakes.

What is the difference between a garden snake and a garter snake?

There is no specific difference between the garden snake and the garter snake. They both belong to the same species of Thamnophis sirtalis. The only difference is their body colors which may vary. Garter snakes can be particularly recognized because of their long stripes.

What time of day are garter snakes most active?

Garter snakes are diurnal by nature, that is, they stay active during the day, and rest or sleep during the night. During hibernation, a large number of individuals can be found at the same den together. When the winter afternoons are especially warm, they emerge from hibernation to enjoy the warmth or bask in the sun which helps them to regulate their body temperature.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including softshell turtle, or grass snake.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our garter snake coloring pages.



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