COMMON GARTER SNAKE

Thamnophis sirtalis

 (Colubridae)


Description
This snake grows up to 2-3 feet long. Although variable in color - there are a number of recognized subspecies - this snake has three yellowish lines down its back, with alternate red and black markings in between (A,B). When handled, they may emit a foul-smelling liquid, but they are not considered venomous to humans. This particular specimen (A,B), photographed in early July, was about to shed its skin, as can be seen by the milky eye and skin beginning to peel on its side in image (B). The snake in image (D) was found on a warm day in late October 2012 near the Fontenelle Forest visitors center. And, by the way, Garter snakes are good swimmers (F).

Occurrence
Considered uncommon in Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods, where it is most often seen near water, sunning on open trails from spring to fall (C). After hibernating in large colonies, they emerge in March or April to mate. Then they give live birth to as many as 20 young in the summer or fall.

Comments
There are usually many more males than females. The males emerge from hibernation first. Some of these males are able to release female pheromones to lure other males away from the den where the females will emerge somewhat later. Those males will then return to increase their chances of mating with a female.



Disclaimer: The content of NatureSearch is provided by dedicated volunteer Naturalists of Fontenelle Nature Association who strive to provide the most accurate information available. Contributors of the images retain their copyrights. The point of contact for this page is: Roland Barth.

 

 

 

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