Butler's Garter Snake is a non-venomous Ohio snake


Butler’s garter snake, a close relative of the water snake, are a slim, medium-sized snake that may reach a length of a 3 feet or more, but are usually 18 to 26 inches long.  Typically, they have yellow stripes on a dark background, but coloration and pattern can vary tremendously. Butler’s garter snake has a lateral stripe that covers the third row of scales, as well as the adjacent halves of rows two and four. The highest recorded lifespan in captivity is 14 years, while the average captive lifespans range from 6 to 10 years. Most wild snakes probably do not live as long as this due to predation and environmental stresses.

These snakes communicate with each other mostly through touch or smell, especially for breeding.  They use their forked tongues to collect chemicals from the air and insert these forks into a special organ in the roof of their mouth, which interprets these chemical signals. Butler’s garter snakes are also sensitive to vibrations and have reasonably good vision.


Their diet consists of earthworms for the most part. They will sometimes also eat leeches, small frogs, minnows, mice, leeches, or salamanders.

Butler's Garter Snake

Distribution And Habitat

Butler’s garter snakes occur in a wide variety of moist habitats, such as wet woodlands, meadows, bogs, and marshes, and along drainage ditches and streams. The snake is primarily is an inhabitant of flat, open fields. Although its range covers most of glaciated Ohio, it occurs only in isolated colonies. These sorts of habitats can sometimes occur in suburban and urban areas and relatively large concentrations of butler’s garter snakes can be found in those areas.


Butler’s garter snake’s breeding activity is mostly March and April, before they leave for their summer feeding areas. Butler’s garter snakes are ovoviviparous, which means that eggs are fertilized within the female’s body, develop, and then and hatch within her. Females give birth in mid-to late summer to anywhere from 4 to 20 live young. Once the young are born, there is no parental care. Outside of the breeding season they do not interact much with other snakes.


While most species are classified as harmless (non-venomous), their bite can cause minor swelling or itching in humans, and anyone bitten by a butler’s garter snake should clean the bite thoroughly. It is not ultimately a cause for concern. Allergic reactions to the saliva have been known, but cases are extremely rare.


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