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December 24, 2016 2 min read

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

Facts, control & identification

Latin Name

Thamnophis elegans


You will mostly find a range of yellow or white stripe on the back of western terrestrial garter snakes with one stripe of the same color on both sides. There sometimes can be black or red spots between the side and top stripes. The bottom side of the snake is black or olive-brown with some markings. There can be difficulty in identifying the subspecies of this snake because of its enormous varieties. The head is slightly wider than the neck and they can reach a size of between 18 – 41 inches. The western terrestrial garter snakes shares a close resemblance with the rattlesnakes and the bull snakes and are therefore mistaken for one another.

Diet, Behavior & Habits

The western garter snake is able to constrict its prey which is not done by other garter snakes. The constriction is not as strong as constriction done by other species of snakes that constricts their prey. However, the constriction done by the western terrestrial garter snakes in Colorado has been found to be effective enough to kill their prey unlike the ones in the pacific coast. Though mating can sometimes occur in fall, breeding predominantly takes place in spring. They also give birth to their young alive like the other garter snakes. They produce 4-19 young between July and September.

Frogs, mice, birds, fish, tadpoles, lizards, worms, snugs, small land mammals, grasshoppers, other snakes and snails are some of its usual prey. Cannibalism among garter snakes is found in only two species in which T. elegansis one.

It can be found all over the western half of North America. Open areas in forests, scrublands, grassland, mountains, rocky hillsides and woodland are some of the numerous places the western garter snake inhabit. The western garter snake can sometimes be aquatic in higher elevation, but are generally terrestrial in nature.

Additional Information

Generally, the garter snakes are harmless to human but this is not to be said of the western terrestrial garter snake and the wandering garter snakes. The snake struggles, spiral and thrash around when handle in a bid to escape. They release smelly mix of feces and musk which is the greatest escape plan. The western terrestrial and the wandering garter snakes will bite when it feels seriously threatened. The wandering snake has the most toxic venom among the garter snake species.

It is best to contact a pest management professional to help address any snake problem.

Eliminating food source and destroying snakes shelter can be a way of discouraging snakes from lurking around homes. Store lumbers and firewood far away from home and clear all pile of leaves, debris and rock since they are a major snake attractant. Cracks and holes in buildings should be sealed off. Snake-proof fence should be used to secure areas where children often play. Wandering or western garter snakes are not intimidated or repelled by fake hawk or owls’ decoy, or by the use of ultrasonic sound emitter (which can’t be heard by snakes especially at high frequency)