eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
CHARACTERISTICS: This is the only gartersnake throughout most
of its range with lateral stripes confined to rows 2 and 3. There are
normally 3 yellowish stripes, but they may be brownish, greenish, or
bluish. There is usually a double row of alternating back spots between
stripes. Occasionally, specimens are virtually stripeless. The belly is
greenish or yellowish, with 2 rows of indistinct back spots partially
hidden under the overlapping portions of the ventrals. This species is
from 5-48 inches long. Juveniles are pattered as adults, but are brown
on the back and whitish on the belly, and usually exhibit the checker-
board pattern of squarish black or dark brown and green blotches. The
dorsal pattern darkens with age. This snake will mate on the first warm
day after their emergence in spring. The young are born alive in late
July or early August. They have 7-10 young/litter, which are 5-9 inches
long at birth.
DISTRIBUTION: Eastern garter snake occurs statewide in Virginia, with
the exception of the barrier islands. It is most abundant in mountains. This
species needs caves for hibernation throughout the winter. Eastern garter-
snakes are terrestrial and can be found in many types of habitats. These
include hardwood and pine forests, lowland and upland grasslands and balds,
abandoned fields in various stages of succession, along the margins of creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes, agricultural and urban areas, and freshwater marshes.
It is sometimes found in suburban gardens and around barns and houses.
Water is not a requirement, but moist areas are usually present or nearby.
FOODS: This snake eats earthworms, millipedes, spiders, various insects,
salamanders, frogs, and toads.
Crooked Run Valley