Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)


Common Garter Snake

Photograph by Carol Muth

The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is a reptile of order Squamata, Colubrid Snake Family (Colubridae), genus Thamnophis and species sirtalis. It grows to an average of about 20 inches (50cm) long but can be as long as about 50 inches (125 centimeters). The subspecies found around French Hill Pond are the Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis siralis) or, possibly, the Maritime Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis pallidulus). The body of both subspecies is a tan to gray color with yellow stripes and black spots. The spots are more prominent in the Maritime Garter Snake. Other subspecies can have bright yellow or red stripes.

Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

The family name comes from the Latin "coluber" that translates into "snake." The genus name, Thamnophis, is from the Greek for often or common. The species name appears to come from the Latin for superior or most execellent.

These snakes mate in early spring and produce seven to 85 young. There are more males than females. Mating can involve several males wrapping around a single female in a "mating ball."

Their main diet consists of amphibians and earthworms. They may also consume fish, small birds, toads and small rodents. This snake is most active in the morning or late afternoon and is common on Mount Desert Island.

The venom of the Common Garter Snake is poisonous to small animals but has little effect on humans. These snakes will bite if handled improperly but the bite is usually harmless.

Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) Detail


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