All About Garter Snakes
Garter snakes are the most common snake in North America. I have seen them lots of time. It is the state reptile of Massachusetts, my home state.
There are about 100 different kinds, with many different skin patterns. Lots of them are named for their habitats, like the Oregon, Arizona, Mountain, and Mexican garter snakes. Others are named for the way they look, like the Blackbelly, Checkered, Shorthead, and Longtail garter snakes. Still others are named for the people who first cataloged them, like Butler’s, Godman’s, and Sumichrast’s garter snakes.
But my favorite name is the Wandering garter snake. I wonder where it wanders.
All snakes are cold-blooded (they need to warm up in the sun in order to really get going) and carnivorous. Garter snakes will eat almost anything they can catch, including frogs, slugs, worms, lizards, birds, fish, and mice. They swallow everything whole.
Lots of people keep them as pets. (But they cannot do tricks like my dog.)
They mostly do not bite, and even if they do, they do not have fangs like rattlesnakes and cobras. Until recently scientists thought garter snakes weren’t poisonous. But actually they produce a mild venom which they spread into wounds by chewing. (So if you do get bitten, don’t just hang out and let the snake gnaw on you. And even if you do, the venom is not fatal to humans.)
They don’t get very big. The longest are about one meter, but most are half that size. They are pretty easy to catch.
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