Common Garter Snake


Actual Size: 2–4.5 feet

Characteristics: Most have yellow stripes on a black, brown, or green body.


  • Garter snakes have mildly-venomous saliva, toxic to amphibians, or other small animals.
  • They can bite humans, but their saliva typically only causes mild burning or itching.

Common Garter Snake Overview

The common garter snake, often referred to as a garden snake, is the most common snake in North America. Found from Canada to Florida and throughout the eastern United States, these snakes get their nickname because they are commonly found in backyards.

Common Garter Snake Identification

Common garter snakes are generally 18-54 inches long and typically have three light colored stripes that run the entire length of the snakes body. Stripes vary in color and can be green, white, yellow, blue or brown. One stripe runs down the center of the snakes back, while the other two run alongside the center stripe. Some snakes have alternating rows of dark spots that run along the stripes, creating a checkerboard pattern.

These snakes have a dark head that is wider than its neck. Their tongues are red with black tips and their scales are keeled, having a ridge that runs down the center of their scales. Males are generally smaller than females and possess longer tails.

Common Garter Snake Threats

Common garter snakes do not have fangs and produce a mild venom. For humans and pets, a bite is not dangerous, although it may cause slight itching, bruising or swelling. These snakes are active during the day and when threatened, produce a pungent musky odor to ward off predators.

Common garter snakes are cold-blooded creatures, and are often found in locations that offer warmth and food, like your home. Snakes can enter buildings through fairly small cracks and will snack on small mammals such as mice, and small amphibians, such as toads and frogs. While common garter snakes can be beneficial, eating mice, insects, and other pests, finding a snake in your home can be a daunting experience. Although common garter snakes are generally solitary creatures, they will hibernate in large numbers to prevent heat loss and keep their bodies warm. Due to their combined pungent smell, a large group of garter snakes in or under your home can make your residence uninhabitable.

Common Garter Snake Extermination & Control

Common garter snakes enter areas inhabited by people in search of food and shelter. The easiest thing you can do is to make your home and yard less appealing to them. The following prevention tips can help to reduce problems with common garter snakes and prevent a snake infestation:

  • Control insects and rodents in and around your home. If their food source is eliminated, snakes will not be attracted to your property.
  • Avoid overwatering your lawn, as this can attract worms, slugs and frogs, which snakes love.
  • Keep your yard free of clutter. Snakes are ambush predators, attacking their prey from dark hiding places. Remove piles of leaves, compost and mulch and store firewood at least 20 feet from your home.
  • Keep grass mowed and shrubs trimmed back to eliminate hiding spots for snakes.

If you or someone else is bitten by a snake that you think could be venomous, contact your Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) or your health care provider as soon as possible.