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CRITTER SPOTLIGHT: Eastern Garter Snake: Thamnophis sirtalis

Good Morning Watershed Explorers,

Happy vacation week! The weather is supposed to be very nice this week, I hope you will take your adventures outdoors.

I would like to introduce you to Thamnophis sirtalis, the eastern garter snake. This little snake is the most common snake in Rhode Island. Its color can vary from brown as seen in the photo below to gray or greenish-gray with yellow stripes. The eastern garter snake can grow to around 18-26 inches long.

Thamnophis sirtalis prefers moist, grassy areas of land found near ponds, streams, lakes, ponds, and retention ditches. Although they prefer areas near water, they will often live miles away from it. They are one of the most common suburban snakes!

Eastern garter snakes are carnivores. They eat a variety of creatures including worms, slugs, frogs, toads, salamanders, fish, and tadpoles. Snakes are incredibly important to watershed food webs. They eat some of the creatures that reproduce quickly, which helps to control other animal populations, but they also provide food for larger animals like owls.

A neat fact about garter snakes is that they give birth to live young. This makes them viviparous. Ovoviviparous which is common in other snakes means that the snake lays eggs which the young then hatch out of.

Snakes can create fear in people for a variety of reasons. Eastern garter snakes are not harmful to humans. They can bite and their space should be respected but they should never be harmed. These creatures are very helpful to watershed environments and if they were not present the entire watershed food web would be negatively impacted. Please respect these critters and allow them to live peacefully in the watershed habitat.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the eastern garter snake. Remember, if you see one of these critters in your yard, or out in the woods, observe it, but give it the space that it needs to feel comfortable in its environment.

Have a fantastic week of vacation. I would love to hear about your adventures, please email me your stories at

Much love,

Mrs. Morissette

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