Common Garter Snake
Thamnophis sirtalis (Linnaeus, 1758)
|French Name||Couleuvre rayée|
|Spanish Name||Culebra de Agua Nómada Común|
|Max. Recorded Length||137.2 cm / 54 inches|
|Range||Alabama, Alaska, Alberta, Arkansas, British Columbia, California, Chihuahua, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Manitoba, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Newfoundland and Labrador, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Rhode Island, Saskatchewan, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming|
|Pet Trade Availability||★★★★ readily available|
|Captivity Rating||★★★★ excellent|
|Search for This Species|
- Texas Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis annectens Brown, 1950
- A brightly colored subspecies with thick lateral stripes, found in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
- Red-spotted Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis concinnus (Hallowell, 1852)
- Spectacular subspecies from northwestern Oregon and southwestern Washington, often lacking lateral stripes, with a variable amount of red along the sides.
- New Mexico Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis dorsalis (Baird and Girard, 1853)
- Found in Mexico and southern New Mexico.
- Valley Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi Fox, 1951
- The subspecies found in the Rocky Mountains and interior ranges. Has only one row of red bars along the side.
- California Red-sided Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis (Blainville, 1835)
- A beautiful snake from the California coast. Red side patterns with a red head.
- Maritime Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis pallidulus Allen, 1899
- A checkered subspecies found in northeastern New England, Quebec, and the Maritime provinces.
- Red-sided Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis (Say, 1823)
- The prairie subspecies, found as far north as Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and as far south as the Oklahoma-Texas border. The subspecies found at the Manitoba snake dens.
- Puget Sound Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis pickeringii (Baird and Girard, 1853)
- Northwestern Washington, Vancouver Island and the southwestern B.C. mainland.
- Chicago Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis semifasciatus Cope, 1892
- Found in the vicinity of Chicago. Sometimes not recognized as a valid subspecies; see Collins.
- Blue-striped Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis similis Rossman, 1965
- Blue-striped subspecies from northwestern peninsular Florida. Not recognized by Collins as a valid subspecies. Difficult for hobbyists to differentiate from Floridian Eastern Garter Snakes with a bluish hue.
- Eastern Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Wide-ranging (across most of eastern North America) and variable, with striped, checkered and melanistic populations, and some with considerable red coloration.
- San Francisco Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia (Cope, 1875)
- A beautiful snake found only in San Mateo County, California. The red side patterns found in T. s. infernalis become solid red stripes, and there is a bluish hue to the other stripes. Federally endangered, the San Francisco Garter Snake cannot legally be kept in captivity in the United States by private keepers.
The San Francisco Garter Snake, T. s. tetrataenia, is an endangered species: it may not be kept by private keepers in captivity in the United States. That said, San Francisco garters descended from European zoo stock are kept in Canada and Europe.
The Common Garter Snake is the baseline garter snake: this is the garter snake to which the other species are compared.
If you have experience with this species and would like to share, please contact me.
For general information on keeping garter snakes in captivity, please see the Care Guide.
Articles and News
- San Francisco Fined $386K for Killing Garter Snakes
- New Research into Prey Recognition
- Golfers and Garter Snakes to Share Sharp Park
- Newfoundland Garter Snake Population Persisting
- Funds Awarded to Study Imperiled Texas Garter Snake
- Three Baby Garter Snakes Rescued from Road-killed Mother
- ‘Mildly Venomous’ Clarified
- Narcisse Garter Snakes Out Early
- Volunteers Survey Northernmost Garter Snake Population
- Estrogen Activates Female Pheromone Production in Male Garter Snakes
- New Research into Red Garter Snakes
- Newfoundland Garter Snakes
- Manitoba Garter Snakes in Autumn
- The Snake Scientist
- A New Plan for Sharp Park Golf Course and the San Francisco Garter
- The Best Garter Snake Photos of the Year
- Garter Snakes Invade Seniors’ Home in Manitoba
- Three Evolutionary Routes to Newt Toxin Immunity
- Garter Snakes in Spring
- Golf Course Targeted for Garter Snake Habitat Restoration
- SF Examiner on the Narcisse Snake Dens
- Narcisse Garter Snakes Will Be Late This Year
- Fate of San Francisco Garter Snake Depends on Frog
- Garter Snakes Win Arms Race with Newts
- Garter Snake Bites Man, Cops Issue Advisory
- Seven Wonders of Canada: Narcisse Snake Dens
- A Visit to a Manitoba Snake Den
- Bangor Daily News Interviews Robert Mason
- Garter Snakes Absorb Newt Toxins as a Defence Against Birds
- Garter Snake Now Massachusetts State Reptile
- The Narcisse Snake Dens in the Off-Season
- Pheromones and Garter Snakes
- Massachusetts to Name Garter Snake as State Reptile
- Telling Garter Snakes and Ribbon Snakes Apart
- Largest Red-sided Garter Captured
- Garter Snakes Emerge in Manitoba
- Garter Snakes Emerge in Northwest Territories
- Mori Point Environmental Assessment Released
- Manitoba Garter Snake Road Mortality Reduced
- Garter Snake Found in Alaska
- San Francisco Garter Snakes Return to SF Zoo
- Raising Baby Garter Snakes: Some Personal Observations
- Narcisse Garter Snakes Out Early
- Newts, Garter Snakes Engaged in Toxic Arms Race at Molecular Level
- For Ringlet
- San Francisco Garter Focus of Mori Point Open House
- The San Francisco Garter Snake in Canada
Bartlett, R. D. and Alan Tennant. 1997. Snakes of North America: Western Region. Houston: Gulf.
Brown, Philip R. 1997. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Houston: Gulf.
Ernst, Carl H. and Evelyn M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington: Smithsonian Books.
Gibbons, Whit and Mike Dorcas. 2005. Snakes of the Southeast. Athens GA: University of Georgia Press.
Harding, James H. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Liner, Ernest A. 1994. Scientific and Common Names for the Amphibians and Reptiles of Mexico in English and Spanish. SSAR Herpetological Circular No. 23.
Perlowin, David. 1994. The General Care and Maintenance of Garter Snakes and Water Snakes. Lakeside CA: Advanced Vivarium Systems.
———. 2005. Garter and Water Snakes. Irvine CA: Advanced Vivarium Systems.
Rossi, John V. and Roxanne Rossi. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada: Natural History and Care in Captivity. Malabar FL: Krieger.
Rossman, Douglas A., Neil B. Ford and Richard A. Seigel. 1996. The Garter Snakes: Evolution and Ecology. Norman OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
St. John, Alan. 2002. Reptiles of the Northwest. Edmonton: Lone Pine.
Sweeney, Roger. 1992. The Garter Snakes: Natural History and Care in Captivity. London: Blandford.
Tennant, Alan. 1998. A Field Guide to Texas Snakes. 2nd ed. Houston: Gulf.
Tennant, Alan and R. D. Bartlett. 1999. Snakes of North America: Eastern and Central Regions. Houston: Gulf.
Werler, John E. and James R. Dixon. 2000. Texas Snakes: Identification, Distribution, and Natural History. Austin: University of Texas Press.