Terrestrial Gartersnake

August 23, 2016
Leonard Jones
Terrestrial Gartersnake

Terrestrial Gartersnake. 
Photo: Dennis Paulson

Name: Terrestrial Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans)
Order: Snakes (Squamata)
Family: Common Snakes (Colubridae)

What they look like

  • Terrestrial Gartersnakes are medium sized snakes, generally reaching a maximum size of 43 inches.
  • Often the thicker of the three species, they have larger heads relative to their bodies than the common and Northwestern Gartersnakes.
  • Five subspecies are recognized across their distribution, but the one that occurs in Washington (Thamnophis elegans vagrans) is usually uniformly brown or grey with two alternating rows of black spots between their often yellow dorsal and lateral stripes.
  • Completely black and patternless individuals have been found.

 What they eat

  • Terrestrial Gartersnakes can eat a very wide range of animals, including slugs, worms, snails, leeches, tadpoles, frogs, mice, fish, lizards, small birds, and even other snakes.

 Cool biology facts

  • Studies of Vancouver Island populations of the Terrestrial, Common, and Northwestern Gartersnakes have shown that the relative abundances of Terrestrial and Northwestern Gartersnakes are negatively correlated, possibly due to predation on Northwestern Gartersnakes by Terrestrial Gartersnakes. 
Distribution Map.

Map of Terrestrial Gartersnake distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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