Garter Snake, Eastern

Latin name

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis


Fast facts

  • Adult body length: 18 -26 inches; 36 inches, maximum
  • Body length at birth: 5 - 9 inches
  • Breeding period: March - May
  • Young per year: 7 - 85 live young
  • Life expectancy: maximum 10 years
  • Typical foods: frogs, toads, salamanders, earthworms, minnows and mice


    The ground color of this snake is variable. It may be black, dark brown, green, or olive. Normally there are three yellow stripes, one on either side and one running down the back. This is the only Garter Snake in Ohio with the side stripes confined to the 2nd and 3rd rows of scales. However, on some individual snakes the stripes may be of a darker color (brownish, greenish or bluish) and very difficult to see. The scales are keeled and the anal plate is single.


    Overall Range
    Southern Ontario and Quebec south to Florida, west to Minnesota and eastern Oklahoma and Texas.

    Range in Ohio
    Except for a few scattered counties, this snake has been confirmed to inhabit the entire state.

    Common garter snake range map in Ohio

    Local Habitat
    Wet woodlands, meadows, marshes and along drainage ditches and streams.


    This is the most widely distributed snake in North America. Also, in many parts of its range it is the snake most commonly encountered by people. This diurnal snake generally lives in moist areas where it finds food. It becomes aggressive when confronted by people and generally will try to bite and often it will expel foul-smelling musk onto its tormentor.

    During cold weather the Eastern Garter Snake hibernates in community dens with large numbers of other individuals.