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What Do Garter Snakes Eat?

Category: Reptiles.

The garter snake is one of the most common snakes in North America and it can be found in all parts of Canada and Central US. They are called garden snakes too, since they can be seen in the garden quite often. Due the fact that they live in colder temperatures, they do hibernate during winter. They seek shelter in dens, or grounds, in the earth where the cold can’t reach them. Their colors vary from green to black and apart from their color, they all have stripes on their back and sides.

A garter snake swallowing a fish whole. © Sally King.

The garter snake is an opportunistic hunter

It feeds on fish, earthworms, amphibians, frogs, spiders, small birds and sometimes mice. They have quite a number of things to fear since they are very small and can become the food of raccoons, bears and skunks. They are very easily spotted by hawks and owls from high above in the sky. Even though they prefer to feed on live animals, sometimes they resort to bird’s eggs or amphibian larvae.

Diet for various species

  1. Butler’s garter snake (Thamnophis butleri) loves to eat earthworms, small frogs, leeches, amphibians, fish, mollusks and salamanders.
  2. Blackneck garter snake (Thamnophis cyrtopsis) feeds on amphibians like tadpoles, toads and frogs. But they can prey on skinks, small fishes, crustaceans and worms.
  3. Plains garter snake (Thamnophis radix) will eat salamanders, small birds, frogs, toads, fish, leeches, small rodents, grasshoppers, and earthworms. Specific species that they will eat include American toads, northern cricket frogs, tree frogs, great plains toads, plains leopard frogs, striped chorus frogs, and northern leopard frogs. Plains garter snake will also eat small fishes such as southern redbelly dace, mosquitofish and bluntnose minnows. Small species of birds that are consumed includes eastern meadowlarks and bank swallows.
  4. Eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) small fishes, frogs, salamanders and their larvae. They rarely eat earthworms and females have been seen eating their young.
  5. Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) will eat amphibians, earthworms, leeches, snails, slugs, crayfish, insects, small fish and even other snakes.

Common garter snake eating a bronze frog. © Phil Myers.

Their habitat

Common garter snakes can be found in marshes and fields, every environment apart from water. Their natural habitat is mostly in parks, gardens, meadows and wherever there is pool of water nearby. They like to hunt early in the morning when the temperature is warm but not too hot. Their sight is fairly developed and whenever there is a prey to catch, they rely on agility and speed. Their sense of smell, just like any snake, it is highly developed. They gather information about the surroundings this way. In fact they use their forked tongue to pick up the scent of prey.

Butler’s garter snake eating an earthworm. © James Harding.

These creatures are totally harmless

Due to this fact, many people take them out of their natural habitat and turn them into pets. A garter snake in captivity is not that easy to feed. One can’t feed them wild animals as that can easily lead to issues with the animal welfare groups. Fish and earthworms would be an option, but their meal needs to contain certain vitamins as well. Their meal has to be harvested in a very careful manner. It has to be washed thoroughly. Furthermore one has to be attentive about the places the earthworms are taken from, since the area might contain pesticides, which can be lethal to the snake.

An ideal pet

Despite the fact that the majority of people think that these snakes are boring as pets, garter snakes are the best pets for beginners because of their size and temperament. They are snakes with remarkable personality and several great qualities to make them the ideal pet for reptile fans.

Well adapted animal

Due to their small size, garter snakes cool down and warm up quite easily. Like other reptiles, a quick way of warming up is by basking in the sun. Due to the fact that they rely on a variety of food type, they managed to survive in all habitats and have become so widespread in America.

More on snake’s diet

  1. Anacondas
  2. Cobras
  3. Rattlesnakes
  4. Snakes in general

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