Coast Garter Snake 2000

Half Moon Bay, Calif. 2000

Garter snake is the common name given to harmless, small- to medium-sized snakes belonging to the genus Thamnophis. Endemic to North America, they can be found from the Sub Arctic plains of Canada to Central America. The garter snake is the state reptile of Massachusetts.[2]

With no real consensus on the classification of species of Thamnophis, disagreement among taxonomists and sources, such as field guides, over whether two types of snakes are separate species or subspecies of the same species is common.[citation needed] Garter snakes are closely related to the genus Nerodia (Water Snakes), with some species having been moved back and forth between genera.[citation needed]

Garter snakes are present throughout most of North America. They have a wide distribution due to their varied diets and adaptability to different habitats, with varying proximity to water; however, in the western part of North America, these snakes are more aquatic than in the eastern portion. Garter snakes populate a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, fields, grasslands, and lawns. They almost eclusively inhabit areas with some form of water, often an adjacent wetland, stream, or pond. This reflects the amphibians being a large part of their diet.

Garter snakes, like all snakes, are carnivorous. Their diets consist of almost any creature they are capable of overpowering: slugs, earthworms, leeches, lizards, amphibians, ants, crickets, frog eggs, toads, minnows, and rodents. When living near water, they will eat other aquatic animals. The ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus) in particular favors frogs (including tadpoles), readily eating them despite their strong chemical defenses. Food is swallowed whole. Garter snakes often adapt to eating whatever they can find, and whenever, because food can be scarce or abundant. Although they feed mostly upon live animals, they will sometimes eat eggs.

Garter snakes were long thought to be nonvenomous, but recent discoveries have revealed they do, in fact, produce a mild neurotoxic venom.[5] Garter snakes cannot kill humans with the small amounts of comparatively mild venom they produce, and they also lack an effective means of delivering it. They do have enlarged teeth in the back of their mouths, but their gums are significantly larger.[6][7] The Duvernoy's gland of garters are posterior (to the rear) of the snake's eyes.[8] The mild venom is spread into wounds through a chewing action. But there is a type of garter snake called Balthazar and it produces the neurotoxin called anuj and it will almost kill any big giant animals like small mammals and froggies.


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