What do garden snakes look like- Are they poisonous

Our Garden is a complete ecosystem, where we can find several plants and animals living together. The variety of flora and fauna diversify the environment. From grass in the floor to the birds in their nest, everything together makes this surrounding truly alive.

Besides all these glories, there are a few things in a garden that makes us all terrified. Yes, you are right, I am talking about the garden snakes. Though I like snakes most of my family members don’t. So I have to be cautious every time for anyone encountering a thin shiny snake in the backyard, especially for the kids and my two pet dogs.

What is a Garden snake? – Ok, It is very obvious to say that whichever snake we see in our garden is a Garden Snake. But it’s not that simple, Actually, There are more than a dozen varieties of snake that can intrude your garden. It completely depends on your habitat.

In general, what you see is most probably a “Garter Snake”- mostly anywhere in North America. Other than that you can see a pet python of your neighbors, a Boa, a tree snake, Rat snake, a rattlesnake, a Diamondback, probably a very poisonous Adder or even a deadly black Mamba- especially in Southern Areas.

What we are discussing here is a Garden Snake and most specific a Garter Snake. These are the most common snake found almost everywhere in North America.


What do garden snake look like?

Be Specific, There are almost 32 species of Garden snake especially the Garter Snake. So it is really very hard to specify the identities, still, you can identify a garter snake easily.

A Garter snake is very thin and sleek. It is meant to catch fat preys like a rat or mice, so from the head to tail, it is made to run. The Color variety in a Garter snake is really interesting. You can easily find more than 30 different color patterns with a combination of Red, White, yellow, Green, black, grey and mix of all.

Interestingly almost all of them have patterns from head to tail, these patterns are permanent but can change a bit with their life span, when the snake gets older.

You can easily distinguish a garter snake form any other poisonous snake. You should check for a hood, as if it stands on disturbing and makes a hissing sound, ready to be attacked. If you see even a single symptom among these then move back immediately. It is definitely not a Garter snake, it can be anything dangerous like a Ferdelance or Black Mamba or even a Cobra. Hissing is an extreme sign of aggression in snakes, Not commonly seen in Garter snakes.

Another identification, if you see it opening its mouth and no immediate sign of fangs then it may be a garter snake. Most importantly, No matter if you identify a snake, never ever try to catch it. Sometimes a poisonous-less snake can become dangerous.

Sometimes you can misjudge a coral snake with a garter snake. All Though they look similar- their habitat, identification, and diet are very different.

Is Garden snake poisonous? – Yes, Almost all types of Garden Snake (Garter Snakes) are Poisonous. The catch their prey with the help of neurotoxic venom. This poison makes the prey slow and easy to catch. Snakes cannot chew, so they directly swallow their prey entirely. Ultimately the poison helps them in the digestion of this swallowed food.


What does a garden snake eat? – Technically every snake is a carnivore. It means Snake eats other animals as their prey. Similarly, A Garter Snake or any Garden Snake depends on other animals for food. Being a Small thin Snake, it usually eats small animals and birds even fish and frogs. Basically, a garden snake can eat anything that can be caught as prey.

Reproduction in the garden snake is really unique. First, the male wakes up after brumation. Brumation is a similar process like hibernation and especially snakes are related to this. They gain energy before the females come out.

Both the male and female garter garden snake stops eating for about 2 weeks before the mating. They do this to ensure no foot is left in their stomach and rot.

Female garter snake produces a pheromone to attract males. This pheromone helps to secure the fitness of the offspring and maintain healthier breed by the fittest male. Sometimes more than 20 males are engaged with a single female in a mating bowl.

After the mating process, the female leaves the bowl to find the perfect place to give birth. It is interesting to note that a female garter snake can store the sperms safely for more than a year before fertilization.

Another interesting fact about male garter snake is that they can produce both male and female pheromones. This is really interesting and even they get engaged in the mating with other males. Ok, this is weird but 100% true. This process helps the males to get heat from others and mind it they do need a lot of heat to get ready for the actual mating.

Where does garden snake live? – In the Americas, you can easily find a Garden Garter Snake in the Northern Region. Other than that these snakes are so versatile that now they have been seen in some of the southern states also.

Generally, we think of any snake as specifically related to its habitat. Common assumption says that who lives in a forest cannot survive the swampy wetland but believe me all these assumptions fails in case of Garter snake. From dry earthen land to the swampy backs, you can find a garter snake anywhere. They have adapted according to these environments.

In the east, they hunt for small birds, garden lizards, frogs and mice whereas, in the west, they feed on mostly fish and frogs, sometimes on small birds falling from trees or even slugs, leeches, lizards and mice.

The diversity in their habitat has diversified their body structure and color too. This variation has led to the natural evolution of more than 30 different species of Garter snake in the Americas Itself.

How do garden snakes communicate? – Every snake does communicate. In fact, communication is a necessary condition for every living being. Communication helps them to share feelings as well as to coordination in food catching.

Similarly, Garter snakes communicate, using pheromones. Yes, it is well known that snakes can’t hear but they can feel vibrations and sense pheromones. They have very accurate and specialized organs for this job. Snakes produce different types of pheromones to communicate various messages to other garden snakes.

what do garden snakes look like?
What do garden snakes look like?

How big can a garden snake get?2 to 3 feet.  Actually, the average size of most species of a Garden Garter Snake is recorded between 2 to 3 feet in nature. Though they can easily grow bigger than that in a favorable environment. In the recent past, I have recorded two different Garter snakes, length bigger than 4 feet i.e. 48 inches or nearly 120-150 cm.

Can a garden snake bite?Yes, definitely- A garden snake can bite you if get pissed off. Ok, you should always be careful that no matter if a snake is poisonous or not- It will bite you if you disturb it or make it feel unsafe. Biting is the prime technique of protection for snakes and they will use it whenever they feel unsafe.

Can Garden snake kill you?No, my answer is strictly not. A garden snake specifically any of the garter snakes cannot kill you. Though they have neurotoxic venom that can kill small preys but cannot cause a fatal reaction in humans. Its poison is not strong enough to harm humans but it does not mean that it can’t harm you. The bite of a Garter snake can be very painful or even get infected easily, also it can cause an allergic reaction and in the worst case, the victim can get anaphylactic shocks.

Are garden snakes good for your garden? – Sometimes yes.  Usually, It is said that if it helps you then it is a friend. Generally, garter snakes are a friend for the farmers as they control the population of rats, mice, and lizards in their surroundings. Rats and mice are the biggest threats for the crops and even for other animals as they can kill and eats, chicks, rabbits, and pet birds. Sometimes rats are the main cause of mass destruction of pet birds other that any predators. These garden snakes help us indirectly to get rid of these creatures.

Do garden attracts snake? – If you ask me for a genuine response then I would say- sometimes yes and sometimes not. Garden may attract snakes if you let them hide there. Is there enough prey for snakes? Can they get it easily- If yes then they will come for sure. If you want to keep them away then always keep your garden clean. First of all, get rid of rats, mice, frogs, and lizards as fast as you can.

If you think Garden snakes have helped you somehow, do let me know? Please write your views in the comment section below relating The Identification of Garden Snakes.


Hi, My name is Sukant. I am an I.T professional. Gardening for me is not just a hobby, it's a way of living life with nature. My Ancestors were Commercial farmers: So I personally feel attached to the green. I am not an expert, I'm here only to share my gardening experiences. It's always Refreshing.

One thought on “What do garden snakes look like- Are they poisonous

  1. Garter snakes in my yard are entertaining, especially the babies, so curious of humans when they have never seen a human before, they can act very ferocious for such a defenseless tiny creature! I just let them be free as we all want to be free to live! Amen. 06/27/23

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