What Do Garter Snakes Eat?

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They hibernate together in large numbers during winter months in south facing rocky areas, and may join with other species of snakes. During the rest of the year, especially on sunny days, refuge visitors will find the common garter snake warming in open grassy areas, salt marshes and along wetland edges.

What do garter snakes mostly eat?

Typically these snakes eat earthworms, small fish and amphibians, but they are known to also take small mammals and birds. This snake does not lay eggs.

Are garter snakes good to have in your yard?

Garter snakes are a gardener’s friend! Harmless to humans, they eat all the pests that wreak havoc in your garden. Learn more about the shy but helpful gardening helper who just wants to live peacefully in harmony with you—and eat your slugs! … I kind of wish we did have some; they’re known to eat tick-infested mice!

Can a garter snake hurt you?

Does a garter snake bite hurt? Like any animal’s bite, the garter snakes’ bite will hurt, but it is unlikely to cause serious issues, or even death. Some species do contain venom, although it is not considered significantly toxic to humans.

Are garter snakes aggressive?

Almost all garter snake subspecies are classified as harmless, according to Live Science. These tiny, innocuous snakes are generally considered to be non-venomous and won’t usually bite unless thoroughly provoked.

Garter snakes are among the most common snakes in North America, with a range spanning from Canada to Florida. Often kept as pets, they are relatively harmless, although some species do possess a mild neurotoxic venom. However, it is not dangerous to humans.

Garter snakes come in a wide variety of colors depending on the species, but “most have three longitudinal stripes — one in the center of the back and one on each lower side of the body,” according to herpetologist Jeff Beane, collections manager of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences . Garter snakes are relatively small, usually between 23 and 30 inches (58 and 76 centimeters), though sometimes growing as long as 5 feet (1.5 meters). Fish and Wildlife Service) Beane described garter snakes as “generalists, inhabiting a wide variety of habitats.” They live in woodlands, meadows and grassy knolls and like to be near water, especially “in the arid parts of the West,” Beane said. Because of their small size, garter snakes have many predators, including hawks, crows, bears, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, foxes, squirrels and raccoons, according to the Animal Diversity Web (ADW), a database maintained by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology. The saliva of some species contains a mild neurotoxin that causes paralysis, making small prey easier to swallow. Garter snakes give birth to 20 to 40 live young at a time, though Beane pointed out that litter sizes can vary greatly. Kingdom : Animalia Subkingdom : Bilateria Infrakingdom : Deuterostomia Phylum : Chordata Subphylum : Vertebrata Infraphylum : Gnathostomata Superclass : Tetrapoda Class : Reptilia Order : Squamata Suborder : Serpentes Infraorder : Alethinophidia Family : Colubridae Subfamily : Natricinae Genus : Thamnophis Common garter snakes usually have three white, yellow, blue, or green stripes running the lengths of their brown or olive bodies. Though its body color may vary from brown to green, it almost always has three yellowish stripes on its back, according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory . Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia ( San Francisco garter snake ): According to California Herps , this San Francisco peninsula snake has a red head, big eyes, and wide, blue-green, black, and red stripes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species lists common garter snakes as “least concern” for threat of extinction, noting their wide range and population size, estimated to be more than 1 million adults in the wild.

There are 35 species of garter snakes. These snakes are easily identified by their slim bodies that feature body-long stripes. These stripes come in a number of colors, including red, gray, orange, yellow, and green. It’s also not unheard of to find a garter snake with turquoise stripes. The underbelly scales of all garter snakes are distinctly lighter in color.

Due to their combined smell, a large group of garter snakes in or under your home can make your residence uninhabitable. When not resting, these snakes prefer moist, grassy areas and are often found near water, such as streams and lakes. They also like areas that provide cover, so if your yard has piles of debris, such as rocks, logs, boards or dense vegetation, you are more likely to have a garter snake infestation. So if you have a large number of garter snakes in your yard, they can do more harm than good, ultimately leaving your garden plants vulnerable. Put on some gloves and sprinkle the granules along the perimeter you want to protect – these snakes won’t cross the line you create with the Snake-A-Way.

Common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) are active mainly during the day and are active through a wider range of temperatures than most snakes. They hibernate from late October through March or early April, but can be found basking on rocks during mild winter days. Common garter snakes hibernate in natural cavities or burrows, such as rodent burrows, crayfish burrows, under rock piles, or in stumps.

Common garter snakes find their prey using their excellent sense of smell and their vision. The saliva of common garter snakes may be slightly toxic to some of their small prey, making it easier to handle them while they are being eaten. Due to its ability to live a variety of ecosystems, common garter snakes are not directly managed.

Physical characteristics

Garter snakes come in a wide variety of colors depending on the species, but “most have three longitudinal stripes — one in the center of the back and one on each lower side of the body,” according to herpetologist Jeff Beane, collections manager of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “In most species, the stripes are yellowish or greenish, but this varies with species and region.”Some garter snakes have intricate splotchy patterns between their stripes, making them look checkered. And their appearance really does depend on the species — Beane pointed out that some garter snakes are “virtually stripeless.”Garter snakes are relatively small, usually between 23 and 30 inches (58 and 76 centimeters), though sometimes growing as long as 5 feet (1.5 meters). Beane described them as “slender to moderately stout-bodied … [with scales that are] obviously keeled,” meaning they have a ridge down the center. He added that many species of garter snakes have two-colored tongues.

Habitat

Beane described garter snakes as “generalists, inhabiting a wide variety of habitats.” They live in woodlands, meadows and grassy knolls and like to be near water, especially “in the arid parts of the West,” Beane said.The common garter snake occurs throughout North America, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and into southern Canada, according to the Virtual Nature Trail at Pennsylvania State University New Kensington.The garter snake is abundant in the eastern United States; it is the state reptile of Massachusetts.While no snakes are known to be native of Alaska, a road-killed specimen of a garter snake was found near Haines, Alaska, in 2005, according to an article in the Journal of Herpetology. Researchers who identified the snake through mitochondrial DNA concluded that the single snake represented a relict, or remnant, population, a recent natural colonization or a fresh introduction.

Habits

Garter snakes are generally active during the day. Beane described them as “relatively fast-moving [and] highly terrestrial, but [some] may climb into shrubs or vines; some species climb more than others.” Wildscreen’s ARKive Initiative pointed out that some species are also excellent swimmers.When threatened, garter snakes give off a bad-smelling musk. Because of their small size, garter snakes have many predators, including hawks, crows, bears, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, foxes, squirrels and raccoons, according to the Animal Diversity Web (ADW), a database maintained by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology.Cold-climate garter snakes hibernate during the winter. They hibernate in dens in large groups, with hundreds of garter snakes sometimes found together (and sometimes other snake species, according to Beane). According to the Virtual Nature Trail, one den in Canada was the hibernation spot of more than 8,000 snakes. Garter snakes will travel long distances to a communal den for hibernation, according to the ADW.

Diet

Beane said that garter snakes “feed mostly on fishes, amphibians, and earthworms; other prey are occasionally taken.” The snakes immobilize their prey with their sharp teeth and quick reflexes. The saliva of some species contains a mild neurotoxin that causes paralysis, making small prey easier to swallow. Like other snakes, garter snakes swallow their food whole, according to the ADW. Beane said “some larger prey may be dragged and chewed until killed by trauma.”

Bite

While most species are classified as harmless (non-venomous), their bite can cause minor swelling or itching in humans, and anyone bitten by a garter snake should clean the bite thoroughly. It is not ultimately a cause for concern. Allergic reactions to the saliva have been known, but cases are extremely rare, according to the ADW.

Reproduction

According to Beane, the best situations for mating are “when they emerge [from hibernation] in the spring and also when they congregate again in fall … because they are already gathered together for hibernation and do not have to waste energy seeking mates.” But for garter snakes in more temperate areas where they don’t hibernate, the snakes rely on pheromones.Female garter snakes give off pheromones to attract males. Dozens of males will come to one female, which is why homeowners sometimes think garter snakes are overrunning their neighborhoods. According to the biology department at Reed College, this mass of mating snakes is called a “mating ball.”Some males use trickery to confuse their competition, according to Reed College. They will secrete female pheromones to lure other males toward them rather than to the female. After the other males are away from the mating ball, the males posing as females will dart back to the female to attempt to mate. [Related: Estrogen Turns Male Snakes Into Same-Sex Charmers]Garter snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning they bear live young. After mating, females store sperm in their bodies until they want to fertilize their eggs. Garter snakes give birth to 20 to 40 live young at a time, though Beane pointed out that litter sizes can vary greatly. “As few as five and as many as 101 have been reported,” he said. Parent snakes do not care for their young.

Taxonomy/classification

There are 30 species of garter snakes and many more subspecies, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System. The taxonomy of garter snakes is:

What Do Garter Snakes Eat?

Garter Snakes in the Yard and Garden

A few garter snakes in the garden can be a good thing. They eat insects and other pests, so they can control those pests that harm your plants. You don’t want a large number of these snakes in your garden, however.Garter snakes will call your yard home when it provides the right conditions. When not resting, these snakes prefer moist, grassy areas and are often found near water, such as streams and lakes. They also like areas that provide cover, so if your yard has piles of debris, such as rocks, logs, boards or dense vegetation, you are more likely to have a garter snake infestation.Gartner snakes are problematic in the yard and garden for a couple of reasons. First, most people are startled and frightened when they encounter a snake while outdoors. While generally shy and withdrawing, a garter snake will bite if you accidentally step on them. It is estimated between 1.2 and 5.5 million people get bitten by snakes each year around the world, with the largest number of bites coming from non-venomous snakes. Second, while garter snakes do eat insects, they don’t distinguish between beneficial bugs and harmful ones. So if you have a large number of garter snakes in your yard, they can do more harm than good, ultimately leaving your garden plants vulnerable.Shop Havahart® Snake Solutions »

How to Get Rid of Garter Snakes

Whether they are a nuisance or you are just frightened by their presence, garter snakes can be driven away. Let’s look at how to get rid of snakes around the house.Prevention is best. Go around your home and close up any cracks or holes where snakes could enter and work to make your home snake proof. There are also products you can buy, such as Victor® Snake-A-Way® or Safer Brand® Snake Shield ™ Snake Repellent. These granular formulas of snake repellents is easy to use and effective. Put on some gloves and sprinkle the granules along the perimeter you want to protect – these snakes won’t cross the line you create with the Snake-A-Way.

How are You Dealing with Your Snake Problem?

Are garter snakes a big problem for your home and yard? How are you correcting the issue? Let us know in the comments below or when you visit Havahart® on Facebook. If you have any questions about our products, contact us online or call our toll-free number 1 (855)-5-HAVAHART. For more articles on dealing with nuisance animals and special offers on our products, subscribe to our E-Newsletter.

Habitat

The Common Garternsake is widespread at all elevations statewide in appropriate habitat. Those habitats vary widely, although it is often near water.

Reproduction

These snakes begin mating in the spring as soon as they emerge from hibernation. The 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 that attract the females.After the female has chosen her mate and mated, she returns to her summer habitat to feed and to find a proper birth place. However, the males stay to re-mate with other available females. The females have the ability to store the male’s sperm until it is needed and thus a female may not mate if she does not find a proper partner.Common garter snakes are ovoviviparous (bearing live young). The young are incubated in the lower abdomen, about half way down from the snake’s body. Gestation is usually two to three months. Most litters range from 10 to 40 young and litter size depends on the size of the female, with larger females giving birth to larger litters. Upon birth, baby garter snakes are independent and must find food on their own.Common garter snakes become sexually mature at 1.5 years (males) or two years (females).

Diet

Common garter snakes typically eat earthworms , amphibians, leeches, slugs, snails, insects, crayfish, small fish and other snakes. They seem immune to the toxic skin secretions of toads and can eat them without harm. Occasionally small mammals, lizards, or baby birds are eaten as well.Common garter snakes find their prey using their excellent sense of smell and their vision. They use several different hunting methods, such as peering, craning, and ambushing to capture their prey. The different techniques describe the way the snakes move while they hunt.They immobilize their prey using their sharp teeth and quick reflexes. The saliva of common garter snakes may be slightly toxic to some of their small prey, making it easier to handle them while they are being eaten. Like other snakes, they swallow their food whole.

Lillie Martinez
What a rip-off! I picked up a book called 101 Mating Positions. It turned out to be a book on chess. The only genuine elite is the elite of those men and women who gave their lives to justice and charity. Proud bacon scholar. Gamer. Pop culture advocate. Thinker. Social mediaholic. Unapologetic reader. Interests: Photography, Origami, Learning A Language
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