Common garter snake

Most common, most versatile, widely distributed, and most familiar of all the North American snakes

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It is one of the most ubiquitous snake species in North America, celebrated for its resilience and adaptability to a wide range of environmental conditions. These snakes exhibit remarkable variability in coloration and patterning, typically displaying a base color of black, brown, gray, or olive, accented with longitudinal stripes in hues of white, yellow, blue, greenish, or brown that run the length of their bodies.

This adaptability in coloration is not just for display; it serves a crucial role in camouflage, allowing the snakes to blend into their varied habitats. Common garter snakes inhabit diverse ecosystems, including meadows, marshes, woodlands, and hillsides. They are often found near water bodies, which is essential for their hydration and prey availability.

Despite being often labeled as non-venomous, common garter snakes produce a mild neurotoxic venom. However, this venom is not harmful to humans and typically only has the potential to cause slight itching or swelling in the rare cases of a bite. They are not aggressive and will only bite if provoked or handled.

These snakes are also highly beneficial to ecosystems due to their diet, which includes a wide array of prey such as earthworms, amphibians, leeches, slugs, and sometimes small fish and rodents. Their predation helps to control the populations of these animals, maintaining a balance in the food web.

With an extensive range that covers most of the United States and parts of Canada, the common garter snake is classified by the IUCN as a species of Least Concern. Population estimates suggest robust numbers, with some estimates of up to a million individuals across their range.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Canada
2007
Mexico
2007
United States
2007

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No