24 Types of Garter Snakes in the United States! (w/ pics)

Almost everyone can identify a “garter snake” in the United States!

common garter snakes

 

But here’s the problem:

 

There are multiple species and sub-species of garter snakes! Therefore, figuring out the identity of the SPECIFIC snake you are observing can be challenging. This is especially true since many of them have similar appearances and behaviors.

 

Today, you are going to learn about 24 garter snake species in the United States!

 

I have included pictures with descriptions, videos, detailed range maps, and fun facts for all the garter snakes listed below. With a bit of practice, you are going to turn into a garter snake expert! 🙂

 

*Just a quick note – to be officially considered a garter snake, the species must be in the genus Thamnophis*

 


#1. Eastern Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

eastern garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 18 to 26 inches in length.
  • Coloration varies and can be mixtures of green, brown, or black. Look for a distinct yellow or whitish stripe down the center of their back.
  • Some individuals may exhibit a checkered body pattern.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Eastern Garter Snakes are common and easy to locate in the United States!

 

In fact, they are typically the snake species that people come across the most. They are well-adapted to living around people and can often be found in city parks, farmland, cemeteries, and suburban lawns and gardens. Though it’s not required, they prefer grassy environments near freshwater sources such as ponds, lakes, ditches, and streams.

eastern garter snake range map

Look for these garter snakes in the United States basking in the sun in grassy areas near cover.

 

Eastern Garter Snakes will protect themselves if they are cornered or feel threatened. For example, if you capture or continually disturb one, it will defecate and release a foul-smelling musk from glands. It’s also common for them to bite as a last resort!

 

The Eastern Garter Snake most commonly preys on toads, frogs, slugs, salamanders, fish, and worms. However, they are very opportunistic and will eat other insects and small animals they can overpower. They’re active during both the day and night, depending on the temperature.

 

These garter snakes have a high birth rate (up to 50 babies!) and adapt well to human-disturbed habitats! Because of these traits, this species is not threatened and is relatively common and widespread.

 


#2. Red-sided Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis proximus parietalis

red sided garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Normally dark green to black, but color varies.
  • Three yellow stripes, one down the back and one down each side.
  • As the name suggests, there are red or orange bars down their sides, located between the yellow stripes.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Like other garter snakes, they are habitat generalists. Look for them in the United States everywhere, including forests, shrublands, wetlands, fields, and rocky areas. Their favorite foods include frogs, earthworms, and leeches! YUM! 🙂

red-sided garter snake range map

 

In some areas, after emerging from hibernation, there are not enough females for all the males. In these cases, “mating frenzies” occur, and dozens and dozens of these snakes can be found together.

 

To survive colder months, Red-sided Garter Snakes have to hibernate BELOW the frost line. Depending on the area they are located in, it can be hard to find suitable locations. So the few adequate hibernation dens can shelter hundreds, even thousands, of snakes! To see an example, watch the video below:

 


#3. Western Ribbon Snake

  • Thamnophis proximus

western ribbon snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 17 to 50 inches in length. A slender snake with a long tail!
  • Coloration is blackish, brown, or olive with three light-colored stripes; one down the back and one down each side.
  • The sides and top of the head are dark, and the upper lip is whitish.

 

Did you see a slender garter snake in the middle of the United States with a long tail?

 

If so, it was probably a Western Ribbon Snake! This semi-aquatic species is rarely found far from a water source. They typically occupy brush-heavy areas around streams, lakes, ponds, and other water bodies. You may also spot them basking on rocks, flat vegetation, and dry sandy areas near water.

 

western ribbon snake range map

 

The Western Ribbon Snake has an incredible, unique hunting technique. As they move over land, they make quick, light thrusts of their head and upper body in different directions in sequences of three. It’s similar to a strike, but with their mouth closed. This action disturbs resting frogs, which alerts the garter snake to their location. From there, the ribbon snake uses its superior speed to catch its prey.

 

If they feel threatened, this species will flee into the water or hide in thick brush. Their coloration provides superb camouflage in dense, brushier areas. If grabbed, they rarely bite but will thrash around, defecate, and release musk from their anal glands. This species can also shed its tail to escape, but unfortunately, the tail doesn’t regenerate like some lizard species.

 

Currently, the Western Ribbon Snake has a healthy population, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have threats. Aquatic habitat degradation and loss and pesticides and road chemicals are believed to have serious negative impacts on their numbers.

 


#4. Eastern Ribbon Snake

  • Thamnophis saurita

eastern or common ribbon snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 18 to 26 inches in length. A slender snake with a long tail!
  • Coloration is brown to nearly black with three bright yellow to cream stripes; one down the back and one down each side.
  • Snout and entire head are brownish, lips and underneath head are white.

 

Did you see a slender garter snake in the eastern United States with a long tail?

 

If so, it was probably an Eastern Ribbon Snake!

eastern ribbon snake range map

This species is semi-aquatic and RARELY found far from a source of water. Look for them in a wide variety of habitats, including marshes, grassy floodplains, streams, ditches with grass, wet areas in meadows, and woodlands adjacent to wetlands. Ribbon snakes are even found in suburban areas that match these conditions.

 

You might spot these snakes basking on branches of trees, bushes, or grasses overhanging the water. They typically hunt in the water and prey on amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.

 

If disturbed, these snakes will quickly flee into grass or brushy areas. If caught, they are not aggressive and rarely bite. But you can expect them to defecate and spray musk onto your hands. In the wild, Eastern Ribbon Snakes rely on blending into their surroundings to get away from predators.

 


#5. Terrestrial Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis elegans

wandering western terrestrial gartersnakeIdentifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 18 to 41 inches in length.
  • Most adults have three yellow, light orange, or white stripes; one down their back and two down their sides.
  • Coloration is widely variable. Individuals may be brownish or greenish. Some have red and black spots between the stripes, and occasionally all black individuals are found.

 

This garter snake can be difficult to identify in the United States!

 

Even trained herpetologists have issues! Its coloration varies widely, and there are believed to be 6 subspecies, although scientists still debate this.

 

Terrestrial Garter Snakes occupy various habitats, including both grasslands and forests. They can even be found in mountainous areas up to 13,000 feet above sea level. As the name suggests, they’re primarily found on land. But interestingly, these garter snakes can swim well!

terrestrial garter range map

 

This species is the only garter snake in the United States with a tendency to constrict prey! Most garter snakes grab their prey quickly and just swallow, rubbing their prey against the ground if necessary.

 

Terrestrial Garter Snakes aren’t aggressive or dangerous, but they do possess mildly venomous saliva! It can cause a muscle infection or even kill some muscle tissue. Most bites on humans just cause pain and some swelling.

 


#6. Plains Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis radix

plains garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults average 36 inches in length.
  • Coloration is gray-green with a distinctive orange stripe down the back and a greenish-yellow stripe down each side.
  • Distinct light yellow spots on the very top of the head!

 

Plains Garter Snakes are almost always found in the United States in prairies and grasslands near freshwater sources. They have a fairly large population and adapt well to human-modified landscapes, and you may spot them near abandoned buildings, trash heaps, or vacant lots.

plains garter snake range map

 

This species is considered to be one of the most cold-tolerant of all snakes! In fact, they will even come out of hibernation on warmer winter days.

 

The Plains Garter Snake feeds primarily on earthworms, slugs, and small amphibians. However, they have also been observed preying on small mammals and birds, including the Eastern Meadowlark and Bank Swallow.

 


#7. Valley Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi

valley garter snake

Identifying Characteristics

  • Adults range from 18 to 55 inches in length.
  • Coloration is brown to black with three yellow stripes; one down the back and one down each side.
  • Pronounced red bars between the yellow stripes. Yellowish chin, jaw, and belly, and a black head, which often has red sides.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Valley Garter Snakes are found in various habitats, including forests, wetlands, scrublands, fields, shorelines, and rocky areas. They’re also well adapted to humans and are often found in urban areas.

 

Look for these garter snakes in the western United States under rocks, logs, and other objects, which they use for cover and thermoregulation. During the winter, they hibernate, often communally below the frost line. They will use a variety of underground cavities, including mammal and crayfish burrows, rock crevices, ant mounds, as well as manmade spaces such as foundations and cisterns.

valley garter snake range map

 

When disturbed, Valley Garter Snakes will try to escape into the water and are excellent swimmers. If captured, be prepared for them to release musk and feces onto your hands! They may also strike, but only if they feel extremely threatened.

 

The Valley Garter Snake is considered a species of low risk. They are quite common and adapt well to human-modified habitats. However, they are frequently killed on roadways and are sometimes killed out of fear.

 


#8. Black-necked Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis cyrtopsis

black necked garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Western Black-necked Garter Snakes are dark olive with an orange-yellow stripe down the back and a yellow to white stripe down each side. It can be up to 42 inches long.
  • Eastern Black-necked Garter Snakes are smaller and only grow up to 20 inches in length. They have a checkered pattern of black and yellow on their body, in between their three stripes.
  • Both subspecies have a gray head that contrasts strongly with the body. In addition, there is a dark blotch on each side of the neck.

 

This species is found in many habitats, including desert scrub, plains, arid grasslands, and pine-oak woodlands. They’re almost always found in association with water sources such as streams, ciénegas, and cattle tanks.

black necked garter snake range map

There are two sub-species of this garter snake; the Western AND Eastern. They look different (see photo above), but they also behave uniquely. The Western subspecies (Thamnophis cyrtopsis cyrtopsis) are water snakes and most often found in the actual water. The Eastern (Thamnophis cyrtopsis ocellatus) subspecies prefer to live on DRY LAND that is very close to water.

 

The Black-necked Garter Snake’s preferred prey is frogs, toads, and their tadpoles, including poisonous species like the Sonoran Desert Toad. However, they have been known to feed on a wide range of other prey, including earthworms, skinks, salamanders, crustaceans, and birds.

 

Black-necked Garter Snakes adapt well to introduced species like the American Bullfrog. They have also benefited from the creation of cattle tanks since these snakes are dependent upon water.

 


#9. Puget Sound Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis pickeringii

puget sound garter snakeIdentifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 28 to 40 inches in length.
  • Coloration is dark grey or black.
  • Look for three yellow or bluish stripes; a narrow one down the back and one down each side.

 

This beautiful garter snake is a subspecies of the Common Garter Snake and can be found in various habitats. Look for them in forests, wetlands, shorelines, scrublands, fields, rocky areas, and urban areas. They’re typically spotted by rocks and logs, which they shelter under for thermoregulation.

 

As the name suggests, the Puget Sound Garter snake has a limited range. It is only found on Vancouver Island and the surrounding mainland coast in Canada and northwest Washington.

puget sound garter snake range map

These garter snakes hibernate during the winter, often with other snakes of the same species. They’ll use a variety of underground cavities as long as they’re below the frost line. These include mammal and crayfish burrows, ant mounds, rock crevices, foundations, cisterns, and other human structures.

 

Puget Sound Garter Snakes hunts a wide variety of prey, primarily during the day. They’ll feed on frogs, toads, salamanders, earthworms, slugs, and small fish.

 

Luckily, this species adapts well to human activity, and they aren’t a high-risk species. Inside their small range, they are typically the most commonly seen snake. However, they are frequently hit on roads in urban areas, face habitat loss, and are sometimes killed out of fear.

 


#10. San Francisco Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia

san francisco garter snakeIdentifying Characteristics:

  • Adult snakes can reach up to 36 inches (sometimes even more) in length.
  • Burnt-orange head with a slender turquoise-blue body featuring bold stripes.
  • The stripes run down the snake’s side in a black, orange-red, black pattern.

 

Considered by some to be the most beautiful garter snake in the United States!

 

This striking creature is a subspecies of the Common Garter Snake. They are extremely shy and difficult to locate and are only found in a small area in California. The best places to find San Francisco Garter Snakes are near densely vegetated ponds with nearby open hillsides. Areas with cattails, bullrushes, and spike rushes are used for cover, and open grassland areas are essential for basking.

san francisco garter snake range map

 

San Francisco Garter Snakes are in danger of extinction in the United States.

 

Unfortunately, they are often illegally collected because of their incredible beauty. They also face habitat loss due to commercial and agricultural development.

 

In addition, two other factors have contributed to their decline. First, the California Red-legged Frog, one of their main prey species, is also in decline. Second, American Bullfrogs, which prey on the snakes themselves have been introduced to California from the east.

 

Interestingly, these garter snakes can eat California Newts, which are extremely toxic to most other animals.

 


#11. California Red-sided Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis


california red-sided garternsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 25 to 39 inches in length, with the females being larger.
  • Prominent yellowish to bluish stripes.  Red and black-barred stripes run in between.
  • Slender garter snakes with a red or orange head.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

These beautiful garter snakes occupy various habitats near the coasts of California. Look for them near bodies of water such as marshes, streams, ponds, and ditches.

 

california red sided garter snake

 

Red-sided Garter Snakes are primarily active during the day. They feed on a wide range of prey, including frogs, newts, fish, birds, eggs, small mammals, reptiles, earthworms, slugs, and leeches. In addition, they can feed on adult Pacific Newts which are poisonous to most predators.

 

When disturbed, they typically try to escape into the water if available. If captured, you can expect them to bite and defecate on your hand!

 

The California Red-sided Garter Snake has been listed as endangered since 1967. They face habitat loss due to commercial and agricultural development in California.

 


#12. Chicago Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis semifasciatus

chicago gartersnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach up to 39 inches in length.
  • Coloration is dark brown or black with yellowish stripes down their back and sides.
  • The stripes on their sides break into dashed lines near the head.
  • The Chicago Garter Snake is a subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

You’re most likely to find the Chicago Garter Snake in forest and edge habitats. But interestingly, they are only found in the region that surrounds the city of Chicago!

chicago garter snake range map

 

They prefer areas near freshwater sources and can be spotted basking in open areas. These garter snakes are especially cold-tolerant and may even leave hibernation to bask on warm winter days.

 

Chicago Garter Snakes are similar in behavior and appearance to Eastern Garter Snakes, and both are subspecies of the Common Garter Snake. The main difference is in their appearance. The yellow side stripes on Chicago Garter Snakes are broken into dashed lines near the head.

 


#13. Texas Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis annectens

texas gartersnakeIdentifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 15 to 28 inches in length.
  • Coloration is greenish-black.
  • Dark orange or red stripe down the back and a yellowish stripe down each side.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Texas Garter Snakes are hard to find in the United States!

 

Even in their range, they are relatively uncommon, and you will seldom find them in large numbers. When Texas Garter Snakes are located, it’s typically near fresh water in damp sand or dense vegetation. They look incredibly similar to Eastern and Red-sided Garter Snakes, except for the distinctive red stripe that runs down their back!

texas garter snake range map

They’ll use various places for cover, including logs, stones, plants, underground burrows, and human garbage like old metal and boards. They use these spots for protection from predators and to help them thermoregulate.

 

Texas Garter Snakes are harmless and less aggressive than other garter snake species. They rarely bite, except for young snakes, when they feel threatened. Adults most likely will just defecate and release foul-smelling musk from their anal glands onto your hands!

 


#14. Maritime Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis pallidulus


maritime gartersnake
Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults can reach 40 inches in length!
  • Coloration varies but is typically dark green, brown, or black. The stripes that are common on other garter snake species are missing or poorly developed.
  • Features a yellowish chin, upper jaw, and belly. Some individuals may display a checkered or speckled patterning on the back.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Maritime Garter Snakes adapt well to humans in the United States!

 

They are habitat generalists and can be found almost everywhere! Look for them in forests, shrublands, fields, rocky areas, wetlands, shorelines, and urban and agricultural areas. They’re commonly spotted when moving rocks or logs, where they hide underneath for protection and thermoregulation.

maritime garter snake range map

To survive the harsh northern winters in the United States, these garter snakes hibernate below the frost line. They’ll utilize mammal and crayfish burrows, rock crevices, underground cavities, ant mounds, and manmade structures such as foundations. Interestingly, they often hibernate communally with other snakes!

 

This species isn’t considered threatened and can live to be TWENTY years old! They’re relatively common and can tolerate moderately disturbed human habitats well. However, populations near roads frequently have high road mortality rates.

 


#15. Checkered Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis marcianus
checkered garter snake

Attribution © Greg Lasley (iNaturalist.org)

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically 18 to 24 inches in length.
  • Coloration is typically greenish. They have three yellow or orange stripes; one down the center of the back and one down each side.
  • Look for a distinctive black checkerboard pattern on its back.
  • Cream or yellow crescent marks on each side of the head are followed by a dark blotch on the neck.

 

The Checkered Gartersnake is most commonly found in the United States in desert and grassland habitats. Look for them near water sources, such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, cattle tanks, canals, and ditches. Living in arid conditions, these garter snakes are incredibly good at finding water sources.

checkered garter snake range map

 

These garter snakes are active both day and night, depending on the temperature. For example, they are more nocturnal during the heat of summer.

 

Checkered Gartersnakes are opportunistic predators who feed on a wide variety of prey. They typically consume frogs, salamanders, toads, earthworms, small fish, lizards, snakes, slugs, and crayfish. However, they’ve also been reported to eat mice, raw horse meat, and other snakes of their own species in captivity!

 

Their populations are not currently threatened. Luckily, they tolerate human development relatively well, although draining wetlands and other water sources harm their population. These garter snakes are also able to co-exist with introduced species like the American Bullfrog.

 


#16. Sierra Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis couchii

sierra garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 18 to 38 inches in length.
  • Coloration is widely variable and may be olive-brown, dark brown, or blackish. Darker blotches on the back and upper sides, which may be obscured in individuals with darker coloration.
  • A light stripe on the back and sides may be present but isn’t distinctive except on the neck.

 

Sierra Garter Snakes are found in the western United States in oak woodlands, coniferous forests, chaparral, pine juniper, and sagebrush. They are almost always found in association with a water source such as creeks, rivers, meadow ponds, or small lakes. They are typically located at elevations between 3000 and 8000 feet above sea level.

 

sierra garter snake range map

 

These garter snakes primarily feed on fish and amphibians and their larvae, including frogs, tadpoles, trout, and salamanders. This species has been observed eating adult Pacific Newts which are toxic to most predators.

 

Not much is known about the breeding habits of the Sierra Garter Snake. However, the females have been observed giving birth to live young in late July.

 

They are not believed to be a threatened species. However, the introduction of non-native fish and American Bullfrogs to their range may hurt their population. Scientists are currently monitoring the situation.

 


#17. Giant Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis gigas

giant garter snakeIdentifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are LARGE and typically reach at least 64 inches in length.
  • Coloration is brownish to olive.
  • A yellow stripe down the back and a light stripe down each side.

 

This species is the LARGEST garter snake found in the United States!

 

Look for Giant Garter Snakes in and around wetlands and waterways such as irrigation and drainage canals, ponds, sloughs, small lakes, and low-gradient streams. Unfortunately, much of their original habitat has been lost, and they can now frequently be seen in flooded rice fields.

giant garter snake range map

During the winter, these garter snakes move to higher elevations out of flood zones. They hibernate from early November to April in small mammal burrows and other underground crevices.

 

Sadly, Giant Garter Snakes are threatened. Experts believe that they may soon be in danger of extinction. They face threats from habitat loss and fragmentation, water pollution, road mortalities, predation from introduced species, and changes in agricultural and land management practices.

 


#18. Aquatic Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis atratus

oregon aquatic gartersnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 18 to 40 inches in length.
  • Coloration varies greatly depending on location and subspecies.
  • They may be pale grey with alternating rows of dark blotches on the sides, dark brown with less distinct borders, or nearly all black.
  • May have a yellow stripe down the back or on the neck.

 

The Aquatic Garter Snake occupies various habitats in the western United States, including brushlands, woodlands, grasslands, and forests. But, as the name suggests, they are always near a water source such as a pond, marsh, stream, or lake.

aquatic garter snake range map

These snakes prey on fish, salamanders, toads, and newts. They don’t constrict their prey but may use their body to encircle it in shallow water and then strike to prevent it from escaping.

 

Aquatic Garter Snakes feel the safest in the water. If they feel threatened or need to escape, they flee as quickly as possible to the nearest source of water!

 

There are THREE subspecies of the Aquatic Garter Snake, and they are named for the approximate location they can be found; Santa Cruz, Oregon, and the Diablo Range!

 


#19. Two-striped Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis hammondii

two striped garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 18 to 30 inches.
  • Coloration is variable – dark gray, drab olive, or brown with a light stripe on the neck.
  • Some individuals have yellow to gray stripes down each side, while others have two rows of dark spots down each side and typically lack a light stripe.

 

This highly aquatic garter snake prefers habitats close to permanent or semi-permanent water sources in California. They can be found up to 7,000 feet of elevation above sea level.

two striped garter snake range map

Two-striped Garter Snakes typically hunt in water and prey on fish, fish eggs, tadpoles, newt larvae, small frogs and toads, leeches, and earthworms. They even have the interesting behavior of holding themselves underwater using their tail while lunging for passing prey!

 

Interestingly, when the Two-Striped Garter Snake is threatened, they will sometimes mimic a venomous snake by flattening their head into a triangular shape. Then, when picked up, they use the same tactics as other garter snakes, releasing musk, defecating, and striking.

 

This species has seen a decline primarily due to habitat loss. Drought and destruction of wetlands for commercial and agricultural purposes have been the main contributor.

 


#20. Northwestern Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis ordinoides

northwestern garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults average between 12 and 24 inches in length.
  • COLORATION IS HIGHLY VARIABLE. Individuals can be blackish, olive, brownish, bluish, or gray, sometimes with a reddish tint.
  • Typically has three stripes, one down the back and one down each side. The color of these stripes can be red, yellow, orange, tan, white, greenish, or blue; however, on certain snakes, the stripes may be dull, narrow, or absent!

 

The Northwestern Garter Snake prefers damp areas in the western United States with lots of vegetation and open sunny areas. They may be spotted near houses and are often found when moving boards, logs, or other objects that they use for cover.

northwestern garter snake range map

This species is predominantly terrestrial. However, these garter snakes can swim, and some local individuals have been observed hunting in the water! They feed mainly on slugs and earthworms, but they also prey on snails, small amphibians, and possibly fish.

 

The Northwestern Garter Snake will typically flee into dense vegetation if disturbed. One study found that individuals with stripes usually move away quickly because their stripes make it difficult for predators to determine their speed. But plain or spotted individuals frequently freeze while fleeing because their excellent camouflage helps them blend in while they’re motionless.

 


#21. Mexican Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis eques

mexican gartersnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults may grow up to 44 inches in length. Coloration is black, brown, olive, tan, or rust.
  • Three creamy yellow stripes, one down the back and one down each side, may have dark blotches on each side of the neck.
  • Noticeably large head compared to other garter snakes, black outlined scales on the lower face.

 

This secretive garter snake is hard to find in the southwest United States! Their preferred habitats are near water sources with DENSE vegetation.

mexican garter snake range map

The best time to find Mexican Garter Snakes is in the morning, when they’re often active or basking in the sun, or in the early evening. They are highly aquatic and primarily feed on frogs and fish. Try walking close to a water’s edge, where you may see one fleeing into the water!

 

Sadly, this snake has been listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 2014. Their decline was believed to have been caused by habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species.

 


#22. Short-headed Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis brachystoma

short headed gartersnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 10 to 22 inches in length.
  • Coloration is olive green with three beige to yellow stripes, one down the back and one down each side, bordered with small black spots.
  • As the name suggests, there is no apparent distinction between the head and neck.

 

Short-headed Garter Snakes have a small range and population in the United States. Look for them in fields or meadows by moving cover objects like rocks, logs, and other debris. However, you may also spot them basking or moving across the landscape in search of prey.

 

short headed garter snake range map

These small snakes feed almost exclusively on earthworms. However, in captivity, they have also eaten leeches, salamanders, frogs, and fish.

 

When handled, Short-headed Garter Snakes are relatively tame and rarely bite. However, if they feel threatened, you can expect them to release feces and musk into your hands!

 


#23. Butler’s Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis butleri

butler's garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are slender and range from 15 to 20 inches in length.
  • Coloration ranges from olive-brown to black with three yellow to orange stripes, one down the back and one down each side.
  • Two rows of dark spots may be visible between the back and side stripes, and the head is usually small.

 

Butler’s Garter Snakes look almost identical to Eastern Garter Snakes.

 

So how do you tell the difference?

 

What’s unique to Butler’s Garter Snakes is the placement of their side stripes! Technically speaking, they are centered on the third scale row up from the large, elongated scales on the underside of the body. The side stripes also overlap the adjacent second and fourth scale rows.

butlers garter snake range map

But unless you’re a herpetologist or want to inspect a snake closely, this probably means nothing to you. For the rest of us, their head is typically a bit small compared to other garter snakes. In addition, when they are threatened, instead of fleeing, they tend to thrash around in place.

 

This species is considered endangered in parts of its range. Industrial development of agricultural land has caused significant habitat loss and degradation in their range. If you want to find one, look in moist grassy habitats, typically under cover objects like rocks, logs, boards, and other debris.

 


#24. Blue-striped Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis similis

blue striped garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically between 18-26 inches long.
  • Black or dark brown. The stripe on top is hard to see.
  • As the name suggests, easy to identify blue stripes on the sides.

 

Blue-striped Garter Snakes are ONLY found in a small part of northwest Florida! They are a subspecies of the Common Garter Snake, and it’s not understood yet why these snakes evolved to be blue! Scientists think their lineage dates back to subspecies that are not around anymore.

blue striped garter snake range map

Regardless, they are easily one of the most beautiful snakes in the United States!

 

Their blue sides also make them fairly easy to identify. The only confusing species is the Blue-striped Ribbonsnake, which has a similar range.

 

Look for them along the Gulf coast from eastern Wakulla County in the panhandle south to Hernando County.

 


Do you need additional help identifying garter snakes?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these garter snakes have you seen in the United States?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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