Garter Snakes in Florida (5 Species With Pictures)

There are many types of garter snakes in the United States, and several of these species are found in the state of Florida. Garter snakes have a variety of places to inhabit here, but they tend to all prefer areas near water, something that Florida has plenty of. Common garter snakes are found all over the state, while other subspecies are located in specific places. In this article we’ll look at 5 species of garter snakes in Florida.

What is a garter snake?

Garter are small non-venomous snakes that are characterized by being very thin, with little distinction between their heads and necks. They are often seen in backyards and gardens, and regularly cross paths with humans. Most will be gray or black in color with light stripes going down the sides of their bodies. Though many of the species in this group of snakes are actually called garter snakes, there are some subspecies in the Genus Thamnophis that aren’t.

Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, and around 30,000 freshwater lakes. Garter snakes love being close to water along with Florida’s warm, wet, tropical climate. Florida is a fantastic place for many types of snakes to live.

With all that being said, let’s have a look at Florida’s garter snakes!

5 Types of Garter Snakes in Florida

The 5 types of garter snakes found in Florida are the common garter snake, blue-striped garter snake, eastern ribbon snake, southern ribbon snake, and the blue-striped ribbon snake.

1. Common garter snake

common garter snake

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis

The common garter snake has dozens of subspecies located all over North America. They can be found in every county in Florida, and they have even been found in the Florida Keys. The average snake can grow up to 18” to 26” in total length.

The common garter snake is very slender with three light colored stripes running down its length. Adults are black, greenish-brown, tan, or gray. One stripe runs down the back and two more run down each side.

The stripes tend to be yellow, green, brown, blue, or white. Sometimes they don’t have stripes at all. They also might feature a dark checkerboard pattern. Juveniles have the same coloration as the adults.

Common garter snakes give birth to about 3-80 live young between July and October. They typically eat frogs, salamanders, freshwater fish, and earthworms. They also prey on slugs, snails, small mammals, young birds, eggs, smaller snakes, and various bugs.

The common garter snake is not a constrictor and will usually just swallow their prey alive. They can be found in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, bogs, and anyplace with flowing water. They’re also found in suburban areas where development encroaches on their habitat.

The common garter snake is not a threatened species and is commonly found all over Florida and North America. However, they’re still affected by water contamination, urban expansion, and industrial development are all hazards to these snakes.

Garter snakes are not dangerous, since they have no venom or even fangs. They rarely bite. When confronted, a garter snake will typically flee or take shelter in water. Considered docile, they avoid direct contact with people and pets.


2. Blue-striped garter snake

blue-striped garter snake | image by Geoff Gallice via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis similis

The blue-striped garter snake is another commonly recognized subspecies of garter snake. They’re just like the common garter snake but they have beautiful vivid blue stripes down their sides. No one is quite certain why they have this brilliant coloration. This subspecies is typically found along the Gulf coast. Like the common garter snake, the average blue-striped garter snake can grow up to 18” to 26” long.

Their breeding habits are just like the common garter snake. They give birth to 3-80 juveniles between July and October. Being viviparous, they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs like most reptiles.

They eat small animals like frogs, freshwater fish, salamanders, tadpoles, earthworms, insects, eggs, and other small snakes. The blue-striped garter snake catches its prey in its jaws and gulps it down. They like to live in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, bogs, and anyplace with flowing water. They’re a non-threatened species.


3. Eastern ribbon snake

eastern ribbon snake | image by smashtonlee05 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Thamnophis sauritus

The eastern ribbon snake belongs to the same family as the common garter snake and is a subspecies of ribbon snake. It is found in every county throughout the mainland of Florida. They are found in the Florida Keys, but they are absent from the Middle Keys.

The average eastern ribbon snake can grow up to 18” to 26” in total length. They are also known as the peninsula ribbon snake and the common ribbon snake.

The eastern ribbon snake is very slender with light colored stripes running down its length. Adults are brown, olive-black, or bluish-black. One stripe runs down the back and two more run down each side. The stripes tend to be yellow, beige, blue, or a light green.

Sometimes they don’t have stripes at all. The head is barely distinct from the neck. They have a distinct white spot in front of each eye. Juveniles have the same coloration as the adults.

Eastern ribbon snakes breed from July to September. Females give live birth to anywhere from 3 to 26 young. They eat frogs, salamanders, and freshwater fish. They don’t have venomous fangs and they’re not constrictors, so they just catch their prey in their jaws and swallow them alive.

Eastern ribbon snakes can be found in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, bogs, and anyplace with flowing water. They’re also found in suburban areas where development encroaches on their habitat.

The eastern ribbon snake is not a threatened species and is commonly found all over Florida.


4. Southern ribbon snake

southern or peninsula ribbon snake | image by Scott Beazley via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Thamnophis saurita sackenii

The southern ribbon snake is a subspecies of ribbon snake. It is also known as the peninsula ribbon snake and the Florida ribbon snake. It can be found on the Florida peninsula in marshes, lakes, ponds, and the shores of streams. The southern ribbon snake is semi-aquatic but also semi-arboreal, spending time in both water and trees.

The southern ribbon snake is the smallest of all the ribbon snakes, being 16-30”. They tend to be greenish-olive or black in older snakes. A lighter green or olive-gray stripe runs down their back, bordered in black.

Southern ribbon snakes breed from July to September. Females are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. They have a small litter, only 5-12 young. They eat frogs, salamanders, and freshwater fish and swallow them whole. The southern ribbon snake is not a threatened species.


5. Blue-striped ribbon snake

blue-striped- ribbon snake | image by Geoff Gallice via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Thamnophis saurita nitae

The blue-striped ribbon snake belongs to the same family as the common garter snake and is a subspecies of ribbon snake. They can be found anywhere in Florida, but especially along the Gulf Coast in Florida. They live in hardwood hammocks, prairies, cypress strands, shores of streams, bogs, and ponds.

Blue-striped ribbon snakes are considered to be semi-aquatic and frequently cool themselves in water during the summer. They grow to be 18-25” long.They are thin and black with a gray stripe flanked by blue stripes on either side running down its back. Juveniles have the same coloration as the adults.

Blue-striped ribbon snakes breed between the months of April and June. Females are viviparous, meaning they give birth to 3-27 live young. They catch frogs, salamanders, tadpoles, and freshwater fish, eating them whole. The blue-striped ribbon snake is not a threatened species.

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