Animals

What Do Garter Snakes Look Like? 3 Quick Ways to ID Them

In the United States, there are about 35 species of garter snakes. These species can be distinguished from one another by a variety of characteristics. For the purposes of this essay, though, we’ll concentrate on a few easy methods to distinguish garter snakes from other kinds of snakes that have a similar appearance. The three light-colored stripes that span the whole length of their flanks or back are the easiest way to identify garter snakes. The snake gets its popular name from these markings, which resemble a garter. For more fast methods of identifying garter snakes, keep reading!

Colors and Stripes

Garter snakes vary greatly from one another. They are typically colored tan, gray, brown, or black. It’s not always easy to identify garter snakes by color alone, so try to look for stripes. They will nearly usually have stripes, though occasionally they won’t have any and identification will depend on other characteristics. Regarding the stripes, two are along the sides above their tummies and one runs directly down the middle of the back. These stripes could look more like checkers than stripes.

Depending on the species, the stripes also have different colors. The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), for instance, can have stripes that are brown, white, yellow, green, blue, or brown. This variety within a single species is astounding! The color of a garter snake’s belly might also help you distinguish it from other snakes that seem alike. The belly of these snakes is whitish-green or whitish-blue in color. The belly of ribbon snakes, which resemble garter snakes, is often yellowish or white in hue.

Scales

Additionally, the way the scales appear can aid in the identification of garter snakes. Always use caution when you’re around unknown species, as it may require a closer look than you’re comfortable with.

Both ventral and dorsal scales are present in snakes. The underbelly’s scales are not included in the dorsal scales, which surround the body. These are somewhat elevated on the scale ridges of a garter snake. This scale is referred to as “keeled.” The bigger scales on the neck and underside are called ventral scales.

The garter snake’s top lip’s scales also have a black outline around them. This is a really important indicator that the snake is a garter snake.

Range and Behavior

All across the United States and Canada, save in the arid southwestern states, garter snakes can be found. They can be identified by their overall behavior in addition to their appearance.

When other snakes are dormant, the garter snake is more active. The majority of snakes are nocturnal or crepuscular, which means that nighttime or dawn and dusk are when they are most active. During the day, however, the garter snake is busy. They also stay out longer in the season before they brumate because they can tolerate a greater variety of temperatures than many other snakes. For animals with cold blood, brumination is similar to hibernation. The normal breeding season for garter snakes is October through April, however if you live in a region with mild winters, you may see them basking during “unseasonable” times. September is when a lot of other snakes will begin to brumate.

They are frequently encountered in the wild due in part to their longer duration before brumation and their daily activity. Marshes, forests, and grasslands are its favorite habitats. They frequently favor being near water.

What Snakes Are Mistaken for Garten Snakes?

The snake that is most frequently mistaken for a garter snake is the ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus). It seems reasonable that they are frequently mistaken for one another considering their close kinship with garter snakes. It may be possible to identify a garter snake from a ribbon snake based on the top lip scales that were previously stated. Unlike the garter snake, the ribbon snake lacks distinct upper-lip scales with a black outline.

Furthermore, a garter snake lacks the white patch in front of its eyes that a ribbon snake possesses. You can assess them based only on their shape if everything else fails. Compared to garter snakes, ribbon snakes are often thinner and have longer tails. Furthermore, the heads of ribbon snakes are somewhat narrower than those of garter snakes, which have heads that are larger than their necks.

Are Garter Snakes Venomous?

Since they are non-venomous, garter snakes are usually safe for people and animals to handle. Being timid snakes, they will attempt to flee instead of attacking. Most of the time, garter snakes only attack when threatened or handled. It’s best to just let garter snakes handle their business as this can be an unpleasant experience.

Are Garter Snakes Good to Have Around?

Having garter snakes in your yard or garden can be quite beneficial. They can assist keep your house clear of rodents and make sure slugs aren’t attacking your garden because they feed on pests like slugs and rats.

It’s advisable to keep garter snakes in your yard if you see them because they’re harmless and don’t harm people or pets. If you disagree with this concept, you can surround your home or garden with potently perfumed plants. Snakes can be discouraged by herbs like basil or plants like marigolds and lemongrass. As an alternative, you can deter hotspots from approaching your house or garden by placing rags soaked in ammonia close by.

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