Northwestern Gartersnake

Photo: Burke Museum
Photo: Burke Museum

Thamnophis ordinoides

What they look like

  • Northwestern Gartersnakes are the smallest of the three Gartersnake species in Washington, rarely exceeding 38 inches. 
  • These snakes exhibit incredible variation within single populations—generally these snakes are brown or black with three stripes (one dorsal and one lateral on each side) along the length of the body. Stripe colors can be red, white, orange, yellow, blue, or entirely absent, and are occasionally broken up by small variably colored spots. Because of the prevalence of red stripes in their populations, they are often referred to as “red racers” despite their distant relationship to Western Racers (Coluber constrictor) found in Eastern WA.

All About Amphibians

Name: Northwestern Gartersnake (Thamnophis ordinoides)
Order: Snakes (Squamata)
Family: Common Snakes (Colubridae)

Fast Facts

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live
  • Northwestern Gartersnakes have a coastal distribution spanning British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Del Norte County in California.


  • Between late summer and early fall, females gather in open grassy areas to give live birth.
  • Average litter size in Washington is eight snakes, but is slightly higher in Oregon and lower in British Columbia. 

 Cool biology facts

  • Researchers have found stripe pattern to be highly correlated with escape behavior—striped snakes tend to crawl away in a straight line, while spotted or pattern-less individuals tend to dart in one direction and pause, relying on camouflage to evade potential predators
small brown salamander on bright green vegetation

Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington

Do you know where rattlesnakes live in our state? Or which salamander breathes through its skin? Explore the fascinating diversity of the 26 species of amphibians and 28 reptiles found in Washington state.