California Red-Sided Garter Snake
The California red-sided garter snake or red-sided garter is a subspecies of common garter snakes found in North America. These colorful, medium-sized snakes are considered harmless since their mild neurotoxic venom is not deadly to humans. Despite having enlarged teeth, the garter snakes lack an efficient means of delivering venom since their gums are comparatively larger.
|Scientific Name||Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis|
|Similar subspecies||San Francisco garter snake|
|Other Names||Gardener snake, Garden snake|
|Size||Females: 35-39 in (90-100 cm)
Males: 25-29.5 in (65-75 cm)
|Weight||5.29 oz (150 g) on average|
|Color||Red body with blue or yellow striped pattern; red spots and blotches can be variably conspicuous, black stripes also appear|
|Distribution||Throughout California including Humboldt, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Diego County|
|Habitat||Coastal dunes, lakes, marshes, streams, ditches; occasionally found in woodland and grasslands|
|Lifespan/Life Expectancy||About 2 years (in the wild); 6-10 years (in captivity)|
|Diet||Carnivorous; rodents, amphibians, minnows, crickets, lizards, slugs, ants; sometimes eats eggs|
|Communication/Perception||Visual, chemical, vibrations|
|Adaptations||Their striped pattern is used as camouflage for protection; when attacked, they twist and squeeze to emit a foul-smelling secretion on the predator|
|Size of litter||8-20 babies (average)|
|Gestation Period||60-90 days|
|Predators/Competition||American crows, shrews, raccoons, hawks, squirrels, king snakes, coral snakes, bullfrogs, snapping turtles|
|IUCN Conservation Status||Endangered|
The red-sided garden snakes are active during the day, often found basking in the sun. Being cold-blooded animals, they use thermoregulation to keep their body temperature within 28°-32° C. During late October-early April, the garden snakes hibernate in stumps, cavities, rodent/crayfish burrows, or under rock piles.
They interact with other snakes through pheromonal communication modes. Since the skin pheromones of male and female snakes are very different, they collect and interpret the chemical signals to track other garter snakes.
Mating and Reproduction
After emerging from brumation, the red-sided garter snakes start mating. The males awaken and come out of the cavities first to prepare for the mating process. On the other hand, the female snakes give off a sex-specific pheromone to attract a large number of males. This often leads to the formation of a mating ball in which the male snakes compete to secure the breeding rights. After copulation, the female looks for food and the proper place for giving birth. They are ovoviviparous, giving birth to live baby snakes.
Upon birth, juvenile ca red-sided garter snakes do not depend on their mother for food. They are born yellow but turn blue with maturity. Although they grow throughout their lifespan, the young snakes become mature in 2-3 years, reaching up to a length of 55 cm.
- The red-sided garter snakes are commonly kept as pets.
- The garter snakes are named as the official reptile of the US state of Massachusetts.
- To hunt their prey, garter snakes use peering, stretching, and ambushing techniques. They use quick reflexes and paralyze their prey by biting with their sharp teeth.
- Female snakes have the ability to store a male’s sperm for several years before fertilization.