The Eastern Garter Snake
Albrecht, Brian. “Eastern Gartersnake.” Snakes of Ohio, 2016, www.cleveland.com/metro/2016/06/ snakes_of_ohio_identifying_all_25_species.html.
The Eastern Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) is the most common garter snake found in Ohio. They are a slender species of snake that usually reach about 18-26 inches long. They typically have three yellow stripes on a dark brown base color, however they have a large variety in markings depending on the population. They got their name because the stripes on their back resemble sock-garters. Like all snakes the Eastern Garter snake is a cold-blooded reptile. The female of the species is usually much larger than the males. The Eastern Garter snake is the official state snake of Virginia.
Wilson, J.D. Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis Sirtalis), 2011, srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/thasir.htm.
Garter snakes hibernate in large groups in the winter, in the spring a female garter snake can give birth to more than 50 live young. The life span of an Eastern garter snake is 3-4 years, but they can live up to 10. The Eastern garter snake lives in a large range across eastern North America they occupy a range as North as Ontario and all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico. Since they live in such a large range it is no surprise that they live in a variety of environments. Eastern garter snakes prefer to live in grassy fields, but they can also live in urban environments, rivers, wetlands, and quarries. They often sunbathe near logs or stones that they can quickly hide under. The Eastern garter snake is carnivorous. They eat worms, slugs, small amphibians, and minnows. They have also been known to eat eggs, but this is not their preferred food.
Wilson, J.D. Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina, herpsofnc.org/eastern-garter-snake/.
The Eastern garter snake can be identified by the three stripes on their back. The middle stripe in the center of their back is the thinnest. The two stripes on either side of the snakes back are usually thicker. However, since the Eastern garter snake occupies such a large range and different environments, they have a large range of colorations. There is a population of Eastern garter snakes that live on the Western basin of Lake Erie, half of this population is completely black, with a small white spot on their chin. The dark coloration helps the snakes to warm up more quickly while basking. Mating begins right after hibernation in early spring. The males wait outside the den for females. When the females emerge, the males surround the females and create a “mating ball.” After the female has mated, she can store the male’s sperm until it is needed.
Avram, Andy. Ohio Biota, 2018, ohiobiota.com/reptiles/butlers-garter-snake/.
Eastern Garter snakes are low-level predators. They feed on many small animals and they are also eaten by many other larger animals. They are some of the only animals that can eat amphibians that exhibit strong chemical defenses. Since garter snakes eat many garden pests, they are beneficially for many residential areas. They are also important food for other animals. Birds of prey, raccoons, foxes, snapping turtles, fish and other snakes all eat garter snakes. One of their more interesting predators is adult bullfrogs.
Brian Albrecht, The Plain Dealer. “Hey, Is That Snake Poisonous? In Ohio, Here's How to Tell.” Cleveland, 10 June 2016, www.cleveland.com/metro/2016/06/snakes_of_ohio_identifying _all_25_species.html.
“Eastern Garter Snake.” Chesapeake Bay Program, www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/ fieldguide/critter/eastern_garter_snake.
“Eastern Garter Snake.” Eastern Garter Snake - Ohio History Central, ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Eastern_Garter_Snake.
Gleaton, Amelia. “Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis Sirtalis).” Species Profile: Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis Sirtalis) | SREL Herpetology, srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/thasir.htm.