Garter Snakes

Did you know?

  • The Garter Snake is not venomous.
  • Garter Snakes have special jaw hinges that allow them to swallow things wider than their bodies.
  • By collecting scent particles with their forked tongue and placing them on special organs in the mouth, Garter Snakes can "taste" the air to help them locate prey.
  • Garter Snakes, like other snakes, shed their old skin a few times each year.

Looks and sounds

Garter Snakes are a greenish-brown to black with two bright stripes running down their backs. These stripes can be bright yellow or light green. Sometimes there is a third stripe between the other two stripes, which can range from red to green. Their bellies are a slightly lighter version of their back color. Garter Snakes can be about 15 to 26 inches long. Garter Snakes are silent, and do not even make a hissing sound.

Home sweet home

Garter Snakes can live in a wide variety of habitats, including meadows, rocky slopes in the mountains and brushy thickets in cities. They prefer being near water. Garter Snakes use dens for resting during the warm months, and hibernating during the cold, winter months. Their dens can be spaces under logs or rocks, or previously used animal burrows. Snakes will share a den during hibernation and use the same den for many years.

Family life

Garter Snakes are born in the summer and early fall. Young Garter Snakes are born alive, meaning they don't come from eggs. There are usually 10 to 18 in a litter, but the number can be higher.

Snack time

Garter Snakes eat eggs, mice, voles, slugs, bugs, frogs, fish, snails and lizards. Young Garter Snakes primarily eat earthworms. They need fresh water for drinking and find much of their food near natural water sources.

Garter Snakes at PAWS

Garter Snakes are usually brought to PAWS after they have been attacked by pet cats. Occasionally a snake is brought to PAWS who has been injured by a lawn mower. PAWS gives the snakes medical care to help them get better and then releases them back into the wild.

Need help?

If your family is having a conflict with Garter Snakes, or you find a Garter Snake you think is injured or orphaned, you can get free help by calling the PAWS Wildlife Center at 425.412.4040.

Want to know more?

Learn more about wildlife.