Eastern Garter Snake

What does the eastern garter snake look like?

The eastern garter snake reaches 20” inches to 26” inches in length. They are a greenish or olive brown with three yellow or whitish stripes down the back. A checkerboard pattern with distinct greenish and blackish spots runs down the back between the yellow or whitish stripes. Some specimens may not have the yellow or whitish stripes down the back and may only have the checkerboard pattern throughout the sides and back. Their belly is a yellowish green to cream tone with no patterns.

Where is the eastern garter snake found in Montgomery County?

The eastern garter snake is one of the most common snake species in Montgomery County. Surely you have encountered an eastern garter snake if you have done yard chores in the past. This species of snake is found throughout every habitat in Montgomery County including farmlands north of Germantown, fields south of Poolesville, wetlands west of Potomac, and meadows east of Olney. They also have adapted well to human habitats such as back yards, barns, sheds, garages, shrubbery in flowerbeds, crawl spaces, basements, under trash or debris and can even be found in urban areas such as Rockville and Bethesda. In the hot summer months this species will be more active during the evening and in the cooler months during spring and fall they will be more active during the daytime.

Is the eastern garter snake venomous?

The eastern garter snake is not venomous however their saliva has mild venom like quality which is injected into prey by the snakes long, curved back teeth. Even though this species is non-venomous some people have reported having allergic reaction to an eastern garter snake bite.

What animals or wildlife prey on eastern garter snakes?

A large number of Montgomery County’s wildlife prays on the eastern garter snakes. All birds of prey feed on the eastern garter snake. Many mammals like raccoons, skunk, and even rats will feed on the eastern garter snake.

What does the eastern garter snake eat?

Like all snakes the eastern garter snake is carnivorous and they swallow their food whole. They will feed on any critter that they are able to capture and restrain. Some of their favorite foods are slugs, tadpoles, leeches, small lizards, earthworms, amphibians, crickets, frogs, toads, bird eggs, small fish like minnows, and small rodents like new born mice.

What are the habits of the eastern garter snake?

Eastern garter snakes will sun themselves on cooler days. They are often seen lying on top of flowers and shrubs in flowerbeds. They will also lie on rocks or blacktop paving to increase their body temperature. This species is most active during the day however it will stay undercover during the hottest days of summer.

What are the hibernation habits of eastern garter snake?

The eastern garter snake hibernates in burrows created by other animals. They will also hibernate in hollow logs, tree stumps, wood or rock piles, under concrete steps or slabs or any other area that will protect them through the freezing winter months. Dozens of eastern garter snakes will sometimes hibernate together in one den however they are known to hibernate with other species like the ribbon snake. The beginning and end of hibernation depends on the weather. If October is warm then they may start hibernation in the beginning of November. However, they typically hibernate from October to April in Montgomery County.

What are the reproduction habits of the eastern garter snake?

Eastern garter snake comes out of hibernation in the early part of spring (late March or April) in the Montgomery County region. The males emerge first so they can be ready to mate with the females as they wake up from their long winter’s hibernation. There are far more males then females which is why during mating season this species will form mating balls which means one or two females will be completely engulfed by ten or more males. Females will give birth to 12 to 40 young sometime between July and October.