The garter snake is a non-poisonous variety of any North American snake included in the genus Thamnophis. These garter or garden snakes are common in also Canada and Central America and is the only type of snake found in Alaska. The secret of it success story is that it is not choosy neither about its diet nor about its address. It makes itself comfortable in marshes, hillsides, drains and vacant plots of land in both dry and wet areas either close or far from water bodies. However the western garter snakes of America are more drawn towards water than its eastern relatives. The northern garter snakes hibernate in big groups that have led to collection of them in lots to be kept as pets.
Unfortunately their population has begun to decline because of pollution of watery places with the arrival of bullfrogs and the bass variety of fish that predate on these snakes. A sub-specious is the San Francisco garter snake is now listed as endangered since 1967. Crayfish has also been predating on these narrow headed garter snakes.
Experts disagree about the exact number of species of Thamnophis and their break up into sub-species. Some types of garter snakes are close to the genus Nerodia and scholars toss them around from one group to another.
The pattern of scales of the garter snakes is similar but the colour varies according to their place of habitation. The pattern comprises of either one or three long stripes across the back, which may be red, white or yellow. These look like garters. In between these stripes are lines of spots. Within a single species the spots and colour may differ. Most of the snakes are less than 60 cm and are about 160 cm long.
Garter snakes are carnivorous and their menu consists of anything moving it can overpower â€“ earthworms, slugs, leeches, lizards, insects, amphibians, small birds, fish and manageable rodents. Those near water will vary their diet with aquatic creatures. Frogs and tadpoles are their favourites, while they are not averse to sneaking in on an egg or two. The food is eaten whole.
When not in hibernation the snakes are gregarious and communicate with each other through scented trails. The secretion given out by males and females, pheromones are different and one can immediately locate the other. The male can produce both types of scent and thus fool other male rivals during the mating season. These males usually get the first preference in mating.
Garter snakes are recently being kept as pets but in the literal sense they never become tame. However they bond with the keeper as regards a food supplier and provider. When brought out of their tank they respond with a deep sense of curiosity to their surroundings. A disturbed garter snake will strike, coil and hide flailing is tail. They will also give out a stinking fluid from their anal gland to repel the enemy. These are their techniques for survival when harassed by hawks, big frogs, crows, crayfish, raccoons and even other species of snakes.
The constitution of the garter snakes makes them seek out the warmth of the sun. For this very reason they huddle together to exchange heat. They travel long distances when their time comes for hibernation. They do so before mating.
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