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

Description

Subspecies

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.

Conservation

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.

Captive Care

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

Sources

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.