Common Garter Snake


Actual Size: 2 to 4.5 feet long

Characteristics: Most have yellow stripes on a black, brown or green background


  • Commonly called garden snakes.
  • Can bite humans, but typically only causes mild burning or itching.
  • Their saliva is mildly-venomous and toxic to amphibians or other small animals

Common Garter Snakes in Eastern Tennessee

Often called garden snakes due to the closeness in name, garter snakes are one of the most common types of snakes in the nation. They are known for their characteristic stripe along the entire length of the spine, making them easy to identify. Common garter snakes are not poisonous and generally completely harmless. These highly adaptable snakes are found throughout the nation and can survive in a variety of habitats and in a variety of climates.

Common Garter Snake Habitat

Garter snakes have dens that are often found under large rocks or structures. They are often seen along the perimeter of buildings, under stepping stones, or in rock fences. Unlike other types of snakes, garter snakes give birth to live young. Their diet is wide-ranging, but their prey typically includes snails, slugs, crickets, and other insects. Larger garter snakes have been known to eat birds, small mammals, and frogs.

Common Garter Snake Behaviors, Threats or Dangers

Garter snakes don’t have fangs and are not venomous, however, they do have small teeth and can bite. Their bite can become infected if not cleaned and cared for properly. Although the condition is rare, some people are allergic to garter snake saliva. Even though garter snakes are mostly harmless, they can cause quite a scare if encountered in your home or garden. Most people are startled and frightened when they are confronted by a snake outdoors. While generally shy and withdrawn, a garter snake will bite if accidentally stepped on.

Common Garter Snake Prevention

To prevent garter snakes around your home and garden, keep your grass mowed and your bushes well-trimmed to eliminate hiding places. Remove any objects and debris around your yard and store firewood at least 20 feet from your home. To deter insects or rodents, which garter snakes like to eat, remove bird feeders, compost piles, and standing water from areas near your house. If you discover garter snakes on your property, contact a professional to discuss a proper course of snake removal and control.