Common Garter Snake

Common Garter Snake, Vancouver Island, BCThe common garter snake is separated into 3 subspecies in the Pacific Northwest, The Puget sound garter snake that lives on Vancouver Island, the valley garter snake that lives in the lower mainland, and the red-sided garter snake that lives in the interior and eastern points of the Province. Adults can reach up to 2 m in length. Read More….


Northwestern Garter Snake

The Northwestern Garter Snake varies more in color and pattern than any other snake in our region. Sometimes they appear to have blue eyes but this is just a layer of skin over the eye when they are shedding an old skin that makes their eyes look blue, pretty awesome to see. It is a small snake that can reach up to 60 cm in length, adults are black, brown, or olive in color. Read More….


Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

Like all other garter snakes, the western terrestrial garter snake has strongly keeled scutes giving it a dusty, dull appearance. The color patterns vary throughout its range. In general, this snake has a grey body with a light stripe that is yellow to an orangery red down its back and a matching stripe running down each side. Read More….


Common Garter Snake, Vancouver Island, BC
Common Garter Snake, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Snakes are a large group of animals belonging to the reptile class. Their closest living relatives are the lizards. Together, lizards and snakes form the order Squamata. Snakes began to appear about 90 million years ago. Scientists believe that snakes are descendants of burrowing lizards that lost their limbs and adapted their vision. Snakes can normally be characterized by scaly skin, forked tongue, and the ability to swallow prey much larger than their own head by unlocking their jaw. All snakes are carnivorous, although their prey varies.

Garter snakes are one of the most common snakes found on Vancouver Island. Found in a variety of habitats. Living up to 10 years in age, these snakes do not grow to any great size, reaching about 1 meter in length. Although throughout the years, l have seen a few big ones. Garters, due to their small size, are quick to heat up and cool down. Like most reptiles, garters warm up by laying in the sun.

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, Vancouver Island, BC
Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Many of the garters must hibernate during the winter due to the severe drop in temperatures. This period of dormancy stimulates mating behaviors in the spring. Garters hibernate in groups that can contain hundreds, even thousands of snakes, spending the winter together helps keep them warm and provides access to each other for spring breeding. When spring weather arrives, the snakes slowly come awake, some making short forays outside the den, returning for the night to avoid the still cold spring night temperatures above ground.

There is a much rarer snake on Vancouver Island, the Sharp Tailed Snake. The Sharp-tailed Snake has a sharp scale on the top of its tail. It is the smallest snake on Vancouver Island, averaging 30 cm in length but can reach lengths of 48 cm. It is reddish-brown to grey. The sharp-tailed snake lays its eggs in the summer and they hatch in the fall. The snake is most active during the rainy months but tends to stay under rocks and other ground covers.

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