Cassia's Common Gartersnake

By Dave Hanks

The gartersnake is usually misidentified as a watersnake. While gartersnakes like water, true watersnakes are found in the South and are much larger. The Diamondbacked Watersnake mimics a rattler in appearance, and it is weird to see a lake that is brimming with them swimming around – heads sticking above the surface.

Snakes with lengthwise stripes or that are solid colored are usually fast moving. “Lay in Wait” for their prey species, are usually patterned. Garter snakes inhabit our farm’s ditch banks, and they will scoot away quickly when spotted. I usually even surprise one when I turn over a log along one of our lawns when mowing the grass. It seems like a good place to hide. “A seen snake is a dead snake” is the usual practice, but I no longer engage in it. Even though I am not fond of them, I recognize their value as predators and their right to exist. Here in the USA 90 percent of our snakes are not venomous.

Snakes are scaly and dry - definitely not slimy. gartersnakes do give off an odor and can be “nippy”. These carnivores will stop eating two weeks before mating. A litter of up to 80 snakes are born in a single batch. The babies can immediately take care of themselves. Because some of the major predators of snakes are other snakes, young snakes enter hibernation last, after adult snakes have become dormant, and come out first in the spring - an interesting survival tactic.

Gartersnakes have a complex system of pheromonal (scent) communication.They find others by following their pheromone-scented trails. Male and female skin pheromones are so different as to be immediately distinguishable. Males sometimes produce both male and female pheromones.

Oh, little Gartersnake lurking in the grass Why do you slither away so very fast? Is your skull a little tender and do you have a dread That some ill-intentioned person will step upon your head?

(The yellow striped Wandering Gartersnake)