Eastern Garter Snake

An eastern garter snake basks on a log to stay warm.
An eastern garter snake basks on a log to stay warm.

NPS Photo

Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Identification: The Eastern Garter Snake typically has three stripes: one on the back and one on each side. The side stripes are on scale rows two and three (counting up from the ventral scales). Ground color varies from olive to brown to black; stripes are usually yellow, but may be greenish, brownish, or bluish. Stripes are occasionally absent. There is often a black or reddish checkered spot pattern between stripes. There is a row of indistinct black spots on each side of the pale yellow to pale green underside. Scales are keeled; anal plate is single. Unlike most snakes, garters do not lay eggs. In fact, up to 80 garters are born through a live birth after a gestation period of about two or three months.

Where to find them: Common across North America, they can be found in the marshes, grasslands, and mixed woodlands f Gateway National Recreation Area.

When to find them: Active April through September. Garter snakes are among the first snakes to reemerge during the spring.

Garter snakes feed on a variety of prey, including frogs, toads, mice, bird eggs, and insects. Birds of prey and some carnivorous mammals prey on garter snakes. If a garter feels threatened, it will release a foul odor and bite its predator.

Last updated: April 8, 2022

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