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Eastern Garter Snake - Not Garden Snake



05.30.2006 - The above photo is of an Eastern Garter Snake, (thamnophis sirtalis). This snake is possibly the most commonly sighted snake in North America. There are many variations of Garter Snake, and the colors and patterns can vary, but for the most part, it's a slender snake with a triangular head, usually has some form of dark green and tan, and three stripes down the length of the body, on on top and one on each side. This snake is not venomous, and it's the exact same species that I used to find and pick up and put in a jar and show to my mom for her praise and approval (I hoped) or more likely admonishment (drat) when I was a 7-year-old tyke. These snakes grow to a maximum of four feet, they eat a variety of living prey, from bugs to frogs, and they give birth to live young. They are active during the day, they can swim, and they're pretty well-adapted, as proven by their prevalance. They may strike if handled or cornered, but of course the bite is not dangerous.

Garter Snake vs. Garden Snake - Many people refer to Garter Snakes as Garden Snakes. In fact, I've heard the phrase "Garden Snake" used very frequently, as a catch-all term to describe any kind of non-venomous snake, from rat snakes to racers to ringnecks. "Oh, don't worry honey, it's just a garden snake", I hear people say. Well, the name is "garter", apparently so named after the garters ye menne of olde worre to keep their sockkes from falling downe, and these garters were apparently striped like the snake. But I understand how a layman might think that the name is Garden Snake, since one might find such a snake in a peaceful, lovely garden. It's akin to my childhood believe that Darth Vader was in fact Dark Vader, because the dude was dark, very dark indeed. And while Garter Snakes can be found in the garden, they can also be found in the forest and the meadow and under the rock or log, and sometimes, in my experience, in the pool, garage, or laundry room. Though I have never found one serving as a garter, neither for men's socks or women's stockings, but that doesn't mean I won't keep searching.

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