Eastern garter snakes are medium sized harmless snakes that come in a variable colours and patterns including greenish, brown, or black colour and have a distinct yellow or white stripe. The preferred habitat is open areas such as meadows, but they can be found in just about any natural habitats and unnatural places like suburban and urban areas. In our area, the garter snake is probably the most abundant snake species.
Earthworms are often a large part of the garter snake’s diet, especially in urban habitats where other options are not available. Amphibians, such as frog, toads and their tadpoles are eagerly devoured where available. Garter snakes can eat adult toads without suffering from the harmful effects of the toads toxic skin secretions. Other food includes insects, fish, leeches and slugs.
In Canada, Common Garter snakes hibernate during the winter. They hibernate in dens (hibernaculums) in groups using any suitable place they can get below the frost line. Common garter snakes will breed in spring, soon after they emerge from hibernation. Female garter snakes gives birth to 10 to 30 live young in mid-summer. Gartersnakes reach sexual maturity in 2-3 years.
Although no threat to humans, when handled, garterssnakes may bite and will release a musk from glands found at the base of the tail. Speaking from experience, it is very foul smelling odour!
Garter snakes are heavily preyed upon by a variety of mammals and birds as well as large fish, snapping turtles, bullfrogs and larger snakes. I have heard of an entire nest of snakes were completely annihilated by a flock of wild turkeys as they were emerging from their hibernaculum.
Even though they are harmless, they are often persecuted by homeowners and park visitors. Domestic Dogs and cats kill them often and many others die by lawnmowers and automobiles.