Garter snakes are also known as garden snakes. Most Americans have probably encountered several garten snakes in their lives. The snake is very common throughout Northern America, Canada, Mexico and Central America.

The garter snake is even found in Alaska stressing how successful this snake is from an evolutionary perspective. Its Latin name is Thamnophis.

Appearance

Coloration of the garden snakes varies with geographic location, but there is only little variation when it comes to the yellow and red or white stripes on its back.

Between the stripes there are differently shaped spots. The stripes on its back have given the garter snake its name. The colors make people think of garters. The garter snake is a relatively small snake and most species only reaches a length of 2 feet (60 cm) while other species, like the endangered (in some parts of California1) Thamnophis grigas, can reach a length of almost five feet.

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Diet

Salamanders, different larvae, insects, snails etc. Garter snake eats all kind of small animals.

Habitat

Garter snakes prefer to live near streams and during hibernation they hibernate together in hibernacula. In general they can be found anywhere just there is a pond or stream nearby. Also, it is not uncommon to find them in backyards and parks.

Life-Cycle

As soon as the garden snake emerges from its hibernation is starts searching for a mate, unless the females hasn’t emerged from their hibernation yet. The male will impregnate several females if it gets the opportunity. The attraction between sexes is controlled by a hormone called pheromone. The male are able to excrete this hormone which will attract the females. The gestation period is 2-3 months but before that females are able to store male sperm for some period. The up to 50 newborn snakes that hatches from the eggs abandons their mother straight on.

References

1Dickert C Giant garter snake surveys at some areas of historic occupation in the grassland ecological area, Merced Co. and Mendota Wildlife Area, Fresno Co., California, CALIFORNIA FISH AND GAME 91 (4): 255-269 ( 2005)

Resources

Garter Snake
Garter Snake Forum

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