Garter Snake Fast Facts

black and yellow snake with tongue flicking out toward camera

Garter snakes are reptiles. They are found in many places in the United States. Their color varies, but they will have a thin yellowish stripe down their back. They usually grow to be around 20-30 inches long.

∙ Snakes in Acadia:
The garter snake is one of 5 types of snakes in Acadia National Park. Others are the ringneck snake, milk snake, smooth green snake, and redbelly snake. None of them are venomous.

∙ Reptiles:
A reptile is an animal that is ectothermic (cold-blooded), scaly, and breathes using lungs; most lay eggs. Being cold-blooded means these animals often bask in the sun to warm their bodies.

∙ Habitat:
Garter snakes can be found in meadows, gardens, forests, and they prefer areas near water. They like to make dens under big rocks or other support structures like steps, stone walls, and building foundations.

∙ Diet:
They are carnivores! These snakes are small and swallow their prey whole so they will eat anything they can overpower. This includes snails, earthworms, leeches, small fish, grasshoppers, and other insects. Occasionally they will eat small birds and rodents.

∙ Hunting:
These snakes use their excellent sense of smell and vision to hunt prey. Snakes use their tongues as a way to “smell the air.” They do have nostrils primarily for breathing, but by flicking their tongue they can pick up the scent chemicals of prey or predators close by. The tongue goes back into the mouth and fits neatly into the Jacobson’s organ located on the roof of the mouth. Here the information about the chemicals gathered is sent to the brain and decoded!

∙ Birth:
Garter snakes are one of the few types of snakes that have live births. Females usually give birth to 15-40 young. They are left on their own to hunt after being born.

∙ Hibernation:
Garter snakes hibernate in communities, sometimes with hundreds of snakes! They will hibernate from October to April and sometimes travel long distances to reach a communal den.

∙ Movement:
These snakes move by wiggling their bodies side to side in an S-shape. They are very fast and use quick movement to ambush prey. They can swim and climb trees too!

∙ Skin:
Garter snakes’ scales are made of keratin, which is what our fingernails are made of! Their scales cover the whole body, even the eyelids. As snakes grow, they shed their old skin. This is called molting.

Last updated: March 25, 2022