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The eastern garter snake is one of Ohio’s three garter snakes, and it is also the most abundant snake in Ohio. It is recognized by its pattern of three yellow stripes on a black or brown body.
The pattern can vary, but the Eastern garter snake is marked with a pattern of three light stripes on a dark, 18 to 26 inch body. One narrow stripe runs down the center of the snake’s back combined with a broad stripe on each side. The stripes are usually yellow, but can be shades of blue, green, or brown. Between the center and each of the side stripes are two rows of alternating black spots. The scales of the eastern garter snake have ridges and the snake’s belly is yellow or pale green.
This snake does not migrate and feeds during daylight hours, as long as optimal weather is available. They typically eat earthworms, millipedes, spiders, insects, salamanders, small fish, frogs and toads. The eastern garter snake eats its prey alive and whole.
Distribution And Habitat
It can be found in almost every habitat type in the state including wetlands, forests, fields, rocky hillsides, and residential areas. They tend to prefer moist, grassy environments and are often found near water, such as the edges of ponds, lakes, ditches, and streams. However, they are not always found near permanent water sources and may sometimes travel long distances away from any water.
They are often seen basking on wood piles, stone walls, hedges, and rocks, taking in the warmth of the sun.
Mating occurs in spring soon after emergence from hibernation and in the fall. During gestation, which lasts approximately 100 days, each young snake is protected and nurtured in a thin sac-like membrane that contains a yolk. The newborn snakes usually emerge from the mother between July and October. The size and number of young depend on the age, size and condition of the female, but on average a litter has about 20 snakes. The litter is born anywhere between July and October, and are able to care for themselves immediately.
Young eastern garter snakes are five to nine inches long at birth.
Eastern garter snakes can be fairly aggressive and will readily strike and bite, sometimes causing an allergic reaction in humans.
If handled or attacked, they tend to release a foul-smelling musk.
The life span of an eastern garter snake is typically 3 to 4 years.
Predators include hawks, skunks, raccoons, larger snakes and bullfrogs.