Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Eastern Garter Snake

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis Wooster.jpg
"Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis Wooster" Eastern Garter Snake
Wilson44691     Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The Eastern Garter snake is not endangered but, like most snakes, it is misunderstood and often misidentified. It is commonly seen throughout New Jersey and can be mistaken for the Eastern Ribbon snake.

You are likely to encounter this snake inside or underneath logs, wood piles and mulch piles, although they may also be found on a lawn, hunting or basking themselves in the sun.

The Garter snake is quite harmless and there is no reason to remove or harm them. If the snake feels threatened, it will emit an unpleasant odor in hopes that the predator moves away.

If a predator grabs its tail, the tail will break off and the broken portion will continue to move around as the snake escapes from the predator. The tail section can grow back.

Garter snakes eat insects, salamanders, small frogs, earthworms and will hunt day and night.

Though most snake species lay eggs, the Garter snake will give birth to 30-50 live young.

Photo by Vincent Costa - Washington Twp. Warren County.


  1. Found this guy in my back yard the other day in Washington Twp. Warren County.

  2. Vincent: The link doesn't work in that format in a comment, but I added the image to the post. Thanks for sharing a great photo.

  3. I just found 1 (or more?) curled up under an old ceramic pipe in the backyard. My photo isn't great but it seems to be a garter snake. I need to cut the lawn. Will the noise of the mower scare it away? I'm scared by the idea that 30-50 babies may be slithering around the yard next spring.

    1. If you're sure it is a garter snake, I would leave it alone. It will try its best to avoid people and is harmless. Even if there are 30 young next year, not all will survive and they will not all remain in your immediate area (too much competition for food).Your snake may not even be a female. Removing wood, leaf and other damp piles will get them to move to places better suited.
      Remember, that though we have 22 species of snakes in NJ, only 2 are poisonous