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Wandering Garter Snake

Natural History

The Wandering Garter Snake has a gray, brown or greenish body with a black checkered pattern and three cream-colored stripes (occasionally the side stripes are not visible). Wandering Garter Snakes get their name from the belief that they tend to travel further from water than other garter snakes, but studies have found them to be primarily a riparian habitat specialist. They typically live in moist areas near water; margins of streams, ponds, lakes, damp meadows; open grassland to forest; at elevations from sea level to 10,500 feet. The Wandering Garter is the widest-ranging of six subspecies of the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, and the only one found in Canada. In the US they range from the Prairies to the West Coast, and cross the Rocky Mountains.

The Wandering Garter Snake on this page was photographed in the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon shortly after catching a fish.

The snakes eat a broad range of foods. In addition to the usual garter snake diet of fish, amphibians, and soft-bodied invertebrates, Wandering Garters will also eat any small vertebrate they can find, including mammals and reptiles. The snakes are not poisonous, though some people have experienced an allergic reaction to the snake's saliva when bitten.

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