Common Garter Snake

Thamnophis sirtalis

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Colubridae

Range map: common garter snake

Find out more about common garter snakes from:

 

Websites -

eNature.com

 

Publications -

Snakes and Lizards of Minnesota  This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. - 72 page identification and information booklet (10.2 MB)

Common Garter Snake fact sheet  This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer articles

 

Problem animals -

Living with snakes

Common Garter Snake

The common garter snake is one of the most well known snakes in Minnesota. They live in many different rural and suburban areas and are found on hilltops, along rivers, and in backyards.

Identification

General description: The common garter snake and it's cousin, the plains garter snake, are medium-sized snakes reaching up to 3 feet in length.

Length: Medium-sized snakes reaching up to 3 feet in length

Color: Black with three, yellow lengthwise stripes on their back and sides

Reproduction

Garter snakes give birth to their young, typically in August or September. Baby garters live on their own after birth, and more than half die before they are a year old.

Food

Garter snakes eat a varied diet including frogs, small mammals, earthworms and insects.

Predators

Crows, ravens, weasels, mink, raccoons, foxes, ground squirrels, skunks, hawks, owls.

Habitat and range

Garter snakes are found throughout Minnesota. During the winter, to keep from freezing, they hibernate below the frost line. They usually find a rock crevice, an ant mound or a tunnel made by a burrowing animal. These winter dens are used by garter snakes year after year.

Population and management

Garter snakes are important because they eat destructive rodents (mice) and should not be killed. They have no special status in Minnesota.

Fun facts

Although they are not venomous, garter snakes may bite when handled, and they may defecate on the person holding them, releasing a foul smelling odor.