At first, they may seem scary but if you are an ardent gardener, then finding a snake in your garden is probably a good thing; why? Keep reading to learn about one of the most common non-venomous reptiles in North America, the garter snake.
Found in areas from Central America to Canada, they are common serpents to be found in most of the gardens, hence synonymously also called garden snakes. As a matter of fact, has it ever crossed your mind that why are these snakes known as garter snakes? Well, this funny name has a funny story. In a nutshell, the garter men used to wear socks resembling stripes of the snake; hence they got this name. Another theory also states that the German work garters mean garden hence the name garter snake.
Garter snake: Not evaluated Common garter snake: Least concern
Where you'll find them
Forests, woodlands, fields, grasslands
Garter snake: Thamnophis Common garter snake: Thamnophis sirtalis
Garter Snake Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a garter snake?
The garter snake is a type of snake found in the wild.
What class of animal does a garter snake belong to?
These species of snakes belong to the class of Reptilia.
How many garter snakes are there in the world?
Common garter snakes are currently estimated to be 1 million in number worldwide.
Where does a garter snake live?
Common garter snakes mostly prefer meadows, woodlands, grassy knolls, and areas near water. They are populated in most parts of Eastern and Central North America and are found in cities like New York as well.
What is a garter snake's habitat?
Common garter snakes adapt to various habitats due to their wide range of distribution and varied range of diet. However, their habitat will always range in close proximity to water, such as adjacent wetlands, ponds, or streams. This reflects the fact that their food habits revolve mostly around amphibians. The common garter snake (Thamnophis) is also found around small ponds with tall weeds, especially in the arid parts of Western areas.
Who do garter snakes live with?
You'd be surprised to know that the common garter snake not only prefers to hang out with fellow common garter snakes but also seem to have friends with whom they spend much of their time!
How long does a garter snake live?
The average lifespan of garter snakes in the wild is about four or five years; however, surprisingly, they can live twice as long in captivity.
How do they reproduce?
Common garter snakes have mass mating, with dozens of male garter snakes coming to attract the female common garter snake. The female garter snakes give off pher0mones to attract the males. After mating, the females store the sperm in their bodies until they want to fertilize eggs. Garter snakes are ovoviviparous creatures, meaning they are known to bear live young. They give birth to 20 to 40 young garter snakes.
What is their conservation status?
No special conservation status has been given to garter snakes. However, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species has listed the common garter snakes to be of Least Concern for the threat of extinction considering their wide range of populations present throughout the world.
Garter Snake Fun Facts
What do garter snakes look like?
These species have a variable color pattern, and typically three light stripes, namely, gray, black, brown, run throughout the length of their body. In fact, these stripes can at times also be green, brown, yellow, white, and blue. One of the stripes runs down the center of the snake's back; two other stripes run alongside the central strip. Sometimes these stripes are at times poorly defined or even absent.
How cute are they?
Usually, snakes neither appear attractive or cute; all they appear to us is scary! But then these garter snakes have short heads with blunt snouts, especially the baby common garter snake, which may make them a little adorable.
How do they communicate?
The garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, uses a complex communication system using pheromones. These pheromones are cues that are communicated through their tongue flicking behavior. This helps them find other fellow common garter snakes through pheromone-scented trails, which eventually helps them when breeding.
How big is a garter snake?
The garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, has a total length of about 18 - 54 in (46 - 137 cm), including its tail, with the maximum possible length of 54 in (137 cm). Its length is similar to another snake known as the ribbon snake.
How fast can a garter snake move?
Although the exact speed of the common garter snake is unknown, researchers have analyzed them to be relatively fast-moving and highly terrestrial species. The common garter snake is often seen climbing into vines or shrubs. In fact, a few people have also noted the common garter snake to be an excellent swimmer.
How much does a garter snake weigh?
These species weigh about 5 oz (140 g).
What are the male and female names of the species?
Both the males and females are known as common garter snakes.
What would you call a baby garter snake?
There isn't any specific name for baby garter snakes.
What do they eat?
Common garter snakes typically are known to eat a range of other reptiles and amphibians, such as leeches, earthworms, snails, other snakes, crayfish, slugs, minnows, and other insects. Occasionally they also consume lizards, small mammals, small birds, and other small animals. They use different methods such as ambushing, peering, and craning to capture their prey. Initially, they immobilize their prey using their quick reflexes and sharp teeth. The toxic saliva of the common garter snakes makes it easier for them to eat their prey. Another fact to note, these snakes gulp in their food as a whole.
Are they poisonous?
So you are wondering all this while if this snake having light green stripes we have talked about till now is poisonous or not? Thankfully they are not! At least not dangerous to humans. Garter snakes love to bask in the warm sun in and around the garden-like areas and are harmless to humans. However, to certain individuals, they could cause anaphylaxis, a severe form of an allergy reaction, but note that these are not venomous snakes, and their mild venom is not at all harmful to us.
Would they make a good pet?
Now it is highly unlikely that you or we would keep the common garter snake as a pet. However, these species, both males and females, are known as gardeners' pets. They are called so due to their predatory nature towards rodents and insect pests. But we would warn you not to pick up these snakes as they may end up giving you a small nip, harmless nevertheless. Instead, keep feeding the adult snakes and juveniles daily, and remember to put a comet goldfish in the snake's water bowl for feeding. If you plan to keep these snakes around you for a while, this is one way to take care of these snakes.
Did you know...
The garter snake is also known as the garden snake. Both these names refer to the species Thamnophis sirtalis.
If you ever see a garter snake in your yard, then that's a good thing! Why? Well, your yard is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem that advocates even for predators like snakes.
No animal would be aggressive unless they feel unsafe. Similarly, even these snakes would only lash at you if they feel provoked or threatened.
As scared as we are, garter snakes are equally afraid of people, so more than you, they will try to stay out of your way.
If you do find this snake species in your garden, here are a few recommendations to help you get rid of it: keep your garden clean by removing waste, overgrowth, and holes that snakes like to hide in. You could also consider installing plastic sheeting or catch net and snake-proof fencing.
Different types of garter snake
There are about 35 different species of common garter snakes, such as the San Francisco garter snake, red-sided garter snake, checkered garter snake, and eastern garter snake. These are found worldwide in New York and New Mexico, just like the garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis).
Costs and benefits of garter snakes
The benefits of these species are mainly for gardeners as they kill rodents and insect pests. In fact, were you aware that the garter snakes are symbols of dishonesty and jealousy? In some traditions, they are associated with sundance and are even represented in the hoop of the tribe's sacred medicine wheel. Garter snakes cost anywhere between $20-$300.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods from our Indian python facts and mud snake facts pages.
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