Snake ID (warning: pictures included)

davemichigan(zone 6a (SE Michigan))July 25, 2009

Could someone ID this snake please? It is outside my house. From some search, it looks like it is a common garden (garter) snake. If so, I read that they are harmless to human.

But do they bite?

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The pictures look like a Common Garter Snake. I've never had one try to bite me, because they always ran away (slithered away). I saw one a few days ago. I suppose if you grabbed one, you could provoke it to bite. They are non-poisonous, but any reptile bite can become infected. They are probably beneficial to a garden.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 12:36AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

they will slither away from you.. faster than you can run after them ....

though i suspect you will be running the other way .. lol ...

they are part of your ecosystem... enjoy them as such ..

though you dont have to rub all over them to do so ... lol ...

i like to spy on them from a safe distance ... which for them is not far .... once watched one for about 10 mins.. swallow a toad that was a lot bigger than you would think it was capable of doing ....

have a great day in your garden .... you must be doing something right.. to attract such variation ..


    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 8:03AM
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A garter snake has lived in my garden every year, sometimes I think it's the same one but I know it can't live that long. Sometimes it will lay across the shrubs waiting on unsuspecting prey or just to sun itself. I even took a couple photos this Spring to post but never got around to it and deleted them. I can get quite close and have been known to pull weeds quite near it just to see how long it will tolerate the intrusion. The only time they scare me is when they rush away suddenly before I can spot them - that rustle through the foliage is unnerving.

Ken, one summer during a bad drought I saw a garter snake "walking" down the garden path, had raised itself up, and was carrying a dead bird in its mouth. Surreal.

They will try to bite, I've seen one stand its ground against one of my dogs. As the dog circled, the snake struck out with its mouth wide open. No, it wasn't an escaped Cobra, just an ordinary garter snake who had had enough!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 9:31AM
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davemichigan(zone 6a (SE Michigan))

Thank you all! Now I feel safer.

Schoolhouse. I had one last year too. This one from this year looked a little smaller but then grew larger, so this one is probably not from last year, but I think it might be one of the offsprings from last year. Glad they like my place.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 11:45AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

As has already been pointed out, a garter will only try to bite if threatened (& let's face it ... what creature, including man, wouldn't defend itself?). Their bite is unimpressive -- getting scratched while weeding around a rosebush is more painful. If you should ever happen to get bitten by a garter -- though admittedly this goes completely against our instinct -- don't pull away. Let the snake release you and you'll get less scratched.

With regards to:

"but any reptile bite can become infected"

While that is definitely true, one needs to keep things in perspective. You are far more likely to get a serious infection from a dog or cat bite. Even a scratch from a dog, cat, bird, or plant runs the risk of infection. So always clean any wound well, if the wound is bleeding slightly/slowly ... let it - it helps to flush out the wound, and if redness in the area seems to be spreading more and more or won't heal see a doctor.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 2:04PM
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Harmless snake, ribbon or garter. There is only one venomous snake in the state of Michigan, and that is a type of small rattler. So uncommon they are only in a few areas in swampy environments.

How to tell a rattler? The most obvious way is to look for rattles. However, there are several types of snakes who shake their tails in warning, to mock a rattler.

The garter is a very beneficial creature and quite gentle. We have one who hangs around our house we call "Mr. Garter". He evidently feels unthreatened, as a couple weeks ago, he lay across the back door entrance, digesting a toad, and we had to step over him for two days to get in.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 11:33AM
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It's an Eastern Garter Snake. The only way you really stand a chance of getting bit is if you handle it. I handle them regularly and get bit by about one out of every twenty I handle. The bite is of no consequence. It stings just a little and a really good bite will itch for a little while afterwards. I'd rather get bit by a garter snake than a horsefly.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 11:19PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Hey, now I want one!! :0b

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:24PM
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davemichigan(zone 6a (SE Michigan))

Yup. I checked out and found a few good videos of people (and children) playing with garter snakes!

Now I want to pick one up, but I don't him anymore.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 10:10PM
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I've been "nipped" by garter snakes I was handling/moving, but they never broke the skin. They do produce a stinky odor when handled.

Just a harmless and interesting part of the ecosystem. Any small rodenty things or grasshoppers they might eat is a benefit.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 1:29PM
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austinnhanasmom(5 CO)

My flower bed is now so full (thanks to winter sowing) that beneficial critters are taking up residence. I noticed a garter snake just the other day. Although I am terrified of them, harmless or not, I don't want my kids to have my idiotic fears...

I called the kids over and touched the tail. It didn't move. Although I was a bit relieved that it may be dead, I was also saddened that this moment may not be teachable. So I donned a gardening glove and nabbed a stick. I grabbed the tail and as I was lifting the snake from a bush, it started to jiggle. Although I did not scream, I could not keep touching the thing. Whatever I thought I would teach my kids went instantly out the window. I had to corral my kids indoors and would've had a cocktail if it hadn't been 9am.

I now must wear shoes and socks when I weed that bed; not such a bad deal considering we have thistle!!

After reading this post, I'm horrified that the snake could eat the resident toad!! My 4 year old recently made two toad houses for our fattening buddy. How would I explain a snake stalking the toad?? 4 years old is too young to comprehend evolution; I've tried. I also recently acquired praying mantis babies and think the snake would love those as a meal.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 11:42PM
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I have one that lives in my rose garden. Mine is tiny though, but my neighbor said it was a garter. I hope he didn't eat Fred the Frog! I haven't seen him in over a week. The thought never crossed my mind! :-/ Come to think of it, I haven't seen Ponce the Bunny either. Maybe they're just both off finding mates... yes... that's it.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 12:57AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

I also recently acquired praying mantis babies and think the snake would love those as a meal.

No, there very few types of snakes that will eat insects even if they are starving -- insects just are not a food source (there are only a few exceptions -- green grass snakes being one). But do keep in mind that your little one may witness a mantis eating a butterfly or a beneficial insect like a honey bee. Or a bird eating the mantid babies. Nature is what it is.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 1:05AM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

You may be glad to know that I once saw a garter snake chugging down a nice fat slug. I catch them when I see them, just to look at them, wearing gloves, and have not had them strike at the gloves. Maybe they are too smart. Great to have them around to eat mice, etc. My daughter's cats have been decimating their population along with lizards and who knows what else in my yard, so I've been creating shelters by piling up some branches, etc. in piles instead of chipping them all, so there is something for them to hide under, and I also find them under my newspaper mulches. They also like black plastic or tarps on the ground to hide under. Before Cats I pulled up one tarp and found 16 garter snakes underneath! Boy did they scatter in all directions!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 6:28AM
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