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Reptiles and Amphibians of North Dakota

Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

species distribution map JPG -- Species Photo

Common garter snakes are also referred to as garden snakes, grass snakes, or red-sided garter snakes. They are found statewide and commonly inhabit the edges of woodlands, meadows, wetlands, and areas around housing developments. Common garter snakes are identified by three long yellow stripes on a black background. Garter snakes feed on a variety of food items which include frogs, earthworms, toads, small salamanders, insects, and minnows.

These snakes hibernate in large groups and in the spring give birth to live young. The number of young in a litter can be astounding. A litter may range from six to 73.

Garter snakes are not aggressive, but may bite and thrash around if handled. The bite is not serious, a few scratches at the most. They will also release a foul smelling musk from their scent gland which may require a couple of washings with soap and water to remove from your hands.

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