In My Backyard – Issue #10 – Garter Snake

Hi, and welcome to the tenth issue of In My Backyard. Each of these I post are inspired by actual events and findings and therefore are sometimes a bit difficult to come by. The winter months especially are difficult having little to no “animal life” cross my path, except for pets, of course. I’m never truly at a loss though, for even in the most lean months there are always some bit of nature to find.

With the warmer weather I’ve had an abundance of encounters in which I could use to write about but they are limited since I always try to present at least a few of my own pictures. There are a some though that I have posted and not been able to acquire my own pictures. I end up getting them from Wikipedia. It goes against my first inclinations but… sometimes I have to go with it.

I have chosen this months animal to be the Garter Snake. In the warmer months we have these buddies, maybe not aplenty, but more prevalent than some other creatures. The pictures you see, those that don’t have any other attribution, are of a friendly little snake we suspect has been around our house for a few years now. It was found last year in a bag of plant soil. I was lifting it to move to another spot when I saw a slender rope-like body. It was shocking, but soon all of us were hovering around to get a closer look.

It just so happens that this one came to visit a few days ago when Mum and I were about to go shopping. On my way out to the vehicle, the neighbor’s dog started barking suddenly. The poor little snake wasn’t too fond of her and I managed to get her out of the way and grab the camera to snap a few shots.

I found that the Garter snake is one of the most widely distributed species of reptile ranging from the Alaskan Panhandle to Central America. Also it is the only snake found in Alaska. Which is reasonable since they are heterothermic, which means they depend upon a means of heating themselves that is outside of their body. That is why they are known for sitting on rocks to bask in the sun. I happen to know a few people that do that. (Hee hee!)

The diet of the garter snake is quite varied. Basically you can sum it up to  whatever they can overpower. We happen to know personally that they like frogs and toads, but slugs, earthworms, and rodents are among their list of foods as well.

Notice the pattern and colors. There is the typical black with yellow stripes, but in this one you can see smudges of red along with even black dots. Not many of the Garter snakes we see around here have red on them so this one is kind of special. We wondered if the red color is something they get as they grow and shed skin.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Now here is something you may not know. In fact, I just found out about it myself. Garter snakes are supposedly nonvenomous, but they really have a mild neurotoxic venom they most likely use to tranquillize their prey. The teeth that injects this venom is found further back in the mouth and is really only best utilized through chewing, or gnawing. So if you pick one up and it bites, just don’t let it chew. 😉

But really, humans won’t die when injected with their venom. Thankfully. We have enough trouble with Copperheads and the occasional Cottonmouth or Rattler, we don’t need deadly Garter snakes. It is fascinating though, how God gave even the “harmless” snakes a means of ensuring the capture of their prey.

And that does it. Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed this issue and will return for more next month around this time.

What will I write about next?…

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