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Red-sided Garter Snake

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Is the Red-sided Garter Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Red-barred Garter Snake

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis

The basics:
The Red-sided Garter Snake is found from Chihuahua in Mexico to the Yukon territory in Canada. It is found in a wide range of habitats including marshes, along streams, fields, woodlands and urban parks and yards. In the northern part of its range, the Red-sided Garter Snake hibernates for up to seven months a year in huge groups of several thousand snakes.

Appearance / health:
The Red-sided Garter averages 2 to 4 feet in length. It is similar in appearance to the Eastern Garter snake, but has red or orange bars between the back and lateral stripes. Coloration is dark green, brown to black with a light dorsal stripe. On the sides there are large red spots.

Behavior / temperament:
Red-sided Garter Snakes are active all day, but mostly in the warm afternoons for those living in the cooler northern regions. They are shy and usually appreciate peace and quiet, basking and soaking throughout the day. They can be gently handled, but will secrete a foul-smelling anal fluid as a defense mechanism. Some pet Garters eventually learn to enjoy being handled.

Housing:
Garter Snakes are relatively small; therefore, the best cage is a 10- to 30-gallon dry woodland terrarium with a large bathing pan and accessories that provide hiding places, basking spots and climbing branches. Larger cages are ideal because they provide room for the snake to roam. The cage needs to be escape-proof. Day temp: 77-82F; night temp: 61-68F; basking temp: 86F; humidity: 50-60%; lighting: 12 hours, partly UV.
Since Garter Snakes group together (in dens in the wild), especially when they hibernate, they can be kept and cared for as a group. Because they are active (enjoys slithering in and out of the water) and voracious eaters, and dispel foul-smelling anal musk when disturbed, their cage needs to have a quick-drying substrate and should be regularly cleaned. Water should be changed daily. The snakes should be allowed to hibernate in winter for 2-3 months at 50-60F (colder for those brought in from the northern regions).

Diet:
Red-sided Garter Snakes eat earthworms, fish, pinkie mice, and small frogs. They are diurnal, so will feed during the day.

Breeding:
After hibernation, Red-sided Garter Snakes mate, gestate, and give birth to live litter of about 12 to 50 baby snakes from July to October. Mating occurs when several males swarm one or two females to form a “mating ball.”