Garter Snake, Eastern Plains

Latin name

Thamnophis radix radix


Fast facts

  • Adult body length: 15 - 28 inches (record 43 inches)
  • Body length at birth: 6 - 7½ inches
  • Breeding period: mates in April and May, and again in the fall
  • Young per year: 5 - 60 young born July to September
  • Typical foods: frogs, salamanders and small rodents


    The ground color of this snake is brown, greenish, or sometimes reddish. A yellow or orange stripe runs down the center of the back and there is a light-colored stripe on scale rows 3 and 4 of either side. On some individuals the ground color is so dark as to obscure the lighter stripes. Between the dorsal stripe and each lateral stripe there is a double, alternating row of black spots. There is another row of black spots below each of the lateral stripes. The scales are keeled and the anal plate is single.


    Overall Range
    Northwestern Indiana to eastern Iowa and southern Wisconsin. Unconnected colony in north central Ohio.

    Range in Ohio
    Isolated colonies in Wyandot and Marion Counties. 

    Eastern plains garter snake range in Ohio

    Local Habitat
    Open grassy areas including prairies along margins of lakes, streams and marshes, wet meadows and open boggy areas.


    The Eastern Plains Garter Snake is diurnal but remains hidden beneath rocks, logs, boards and other debris much of the time. Its active season generally is from April to November. It hibernates during the winter in rock outcroppings, animal burrows, anthills and sometimes in man-made structures.

    Some authors describe this snake as being less aggressive and less willing to bite than the Eastern Garter Snake. However, as with most Garter Snakes, this snake will eject feces and musk from its cloaca when grabbed by a human or a predator. Large birds such as herons, bitterns and hawks, and mammals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and domestic cats prey on this snake. Probably snake-eating snakes such as Milk Snakes and Racers prey on them as well.