In the Garden: Eastern Garter Snake

Garter snakes are also called gardener snakes and quite harmless. They are small to medium sized snakes and the state reptile of Massachusetts.

Garter snakes have a wide distribution throughout most of North America due to their varied diets and adaptability to different habitats. They are found in forests, woodlands, fields, grasslands, and lawns but mostly close to some form of water or wetlands.

The Eastern Garter Snake is one of the most common snakes in Georgia. It can grow up to four feet long. Garter snakes have many types of prey, including: frogs, toads, salamanders, earthworms, small fish, tadpoles, mice, bird eggs, slugs, crayfish, leeches, insects, and small snakes.


Most people still believe that Garter snakes are nonvenomous, but recent discoveries have revealed they do, in fact, produce a mild neurotoxic venom. Despite that fact, a Garter snake cannot kill humans and does not really have effective means to deliver the mild venom.


Both snakes look very much alike though there are some easy ways to define which species is in front of you:

  • Ribbon snakes have pure white lips other than garter snakes who have dark marks along the edges of each labial scale.
  • Garter snakes don’t have a white spot in front of the eye such as Ribbon snakes.
  • The body of Garter snakes is often “stockier” when compared to ribbon snakes.
  • The long tail of Ribbon snakes is usually about one-third of their total length; The tail of a garter snake is about one-quarter or less of its total length.
  • The head of a Ribbon snake is usually little moe narrow than of a garter snake.
  • Most garter snakes have their side stripes on the second and third scale rows; some have them on the second, third and fourth scale rows.

Easiest way to get rid of Garter snakes is to make your yard least attractive for them: Clean your flower beds and remove dead overgrown vegetation where they can hide.

Eliminating sources of the snakes’ prey will make your garden less attractive: Remove overflowing water sources and keep your grass trimmed.

Despite common believe there is no scientific evidence that moth balls keep Garter snakes away rather than being risk for your pets.

Atlanta Expat