• Mt Reynolds

    Glacier

    National Park Montana

Reptiles

Western garter snake

Western garter snake

J. Mohlenrich

Glacier Park's cold winters, short growing seasons and high altitudes are less than ideal for reptiles. These animals are "ectothermic", meaning they gather body heat from their surroundings. There are only three species of reptiles in the park, with a fourth suspected to be present.

The common garter snake and western terrestrial garter snake (sometimes called the "wandering" garter snake) are the two most likely to be seen. Both garter snakes have keeled scales, giving them a rough feel when handled. They also share the same defensive strategy of squirting a foul-smelling fluid through their ventral opening when alarmed. They eat mostly earthworms, insects and small amphibians, sometimes locating them with their tongue which gathers chemical clues to the presence of prey. Snakes of all kinds also find prey and evade predators with sophisticated vibration-sensing organs along their undersides.

Western painted turtles can be seen basking on logs in and around low elevation lakes on the west side of the park. The term "painted' is appropriate, especially for the western variety. The plastron, or lower shell has bright orange and yellow markings, and the skin is streaked with yellow. Male painted turtles have longer front toenails than the females, apparently to "tickle" the female's head during courtship and stimulate egg production.

Only a few sightings of the rubber boa have been made in the park, none documented. They are probably present, but nocturnal feeding habits (they feed mostly on small rodents) make them difficult to locate.

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