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Garden Snakes

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Garden Snakes

Garden Snakes are Harmless!

Garden snakes are the most common of all snakes. They are found all across North America from Canada to Central America. They are also known as garter snakes. They are the little snakes that kids will pick up or dogs will bring home. Garden snakes got their name from eating garden insects. They also eat mice, worms, toads, salamanders, small birds and more.

Garden snakes are one of very few reptiles that can eat toads as they are toxic to most. It is believed that the diversity of their diet - the fact that they are opportunistic eaters - is responsible for their large geographical area and health.

Garden snakes come in just about every shade of green and can be yellowish or grayish. They all have three red or yellow stripes down their back and sides. They have small, agile bodies and are very quick.

Garden snakes count on their speed and sharp teeth to catch their prey. They will bite when cornered, but their bite is harmless to humans and pets. When afraid, they first try to run away and then will lie very still until the threat disappears.

Other than gardens, garter snakes can be found almost anywhere:

• Meadows

• Woodlands

• Parks

• Beside ponds and streams

• Rural areas

• Suburbs

• Cities

Garden snakes like to hunt in the early morning and evening when it is cool. On colder days, you might see them sleeping on rocks in the sun. Just like other reptiles, they cannot regulate their body temperature and must move in and out of warmth to stay alive.

Garden snakes have the ability to swallow their prey live. If the food is too large, they can unhinge their jaws before swallowing. They then use their throat muscles and backward pointing teeth to push the food into their stomach. These snakes have a better sense of sight than most types of snakes, which helps them locate prey. They also smell through their tongue. If you see a garden snake flicking its tongue, it is not threatening you, but rather smelling the air to gain information about you. The tongue is forked and when it is drawn back inside, it is inserted into two openings on the top of the mouth.

These snakes hibernate in the winter in dens and return to the same den each year. When spring comes and the temperature is warm, the males leave the den first; the females follow.

In some areas, you can see clusters of writhing snakes come out of a den. They come apart from being rolled together in a ball as large as a basketball.

Garden snakes mate soon after leaving the den. The mother gives birth to live offspring in around four months. It takes three years for a garden snake to reach maturity.

As the young snakes grow, they shed their skin several times, as often as once a month. An adult snake only sheds its skin once or twice a year. Sometimes, you will spot what looks like a complete snake skin in a woodpile or among rocks. They push their nose on the ground to push the tip of the old skin up and they crawl out of it. Because of a fluid that separates the old and new skin, the garden snake is blind for a few days after the skin is shed.




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