5 Species of Garter Snakes in Ohio (With Pictures)

There are many types of snakes in the United States, and Ohio is no exception. Garter snakes in particular, are recognized by with light stripes on their sides and by being very thin with little distinction between their heads and necks. They’re often seen in backyards and around gardens. Ribbonsnakes, a subspecies of garter snake, are even more slender than that. With that in mind, in this article we’ll look at the garter snakes in Ohio.

5 types of garter snakes in Ohio

The 5 types of garter snakes found in Ohio are the common garter snake, eastern garter snake, eastern plains garter snake, Butler’s garter snake, and the eastern ribbonsnake.

1. Common garter snake

common garter snake

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis

This is the species by which all other garter snakes are measured. It has dozens of subspecies located all over North America. They can be found in every county in Ohio. 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. The common garter eats frogs, salamanders, freshwater fish, and earthworms. They usually catch their prey and swallow them alive. You’ll find these snakes in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, bogs, and anyplace with flowing water.

The common garter snake is not a threatened species and is commonly found all over Ohio 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. Eastern garter snake

eastern garter snake

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

The eastern garter snake can be found everywhere in the state of Ohio. The average eastern garter snake  can grow up to 18” to 26” in total length.

They are 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.

Eastern garter snakes give birth to about 3-80 live young between July and October. These snakes are common in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, bogs, and anyplace with flowing water.

Eastern garter snakes are commonly found all over Ohio and North America.

These snakes are not dangerous, since they have no venom and 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.


3. Eastern plains garter snake

plains garter snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Thamnophis radix radix

The eastern plains garter snake can be found in north central Ohio. It grows 15”-28” long.

They tend to be brownish, greenish, or reddish. A yellow or orange stripe runs down their back and lighter stripes on either side. Between the main stripe and the lighter stripes is a double row of alternating black spots. Sometimes, they’re so dark that the stripes can hardly be seen. Juveniles have the same coloration as adults.

The eastern plains garter snake breeds in April, May, and again in the fall. Plains garter snakes are viviparous and give birth to 5-60 live young. For their diet they feed on frogs, salamanders, and small rodents.

They like to live in open grassy fields and along the margins of lakes and streams. These garter snakes can be found in places with logs, boards, rocks, and debris. Eastern plains garter snakes are not listed as a threatened species.

These garter snake would rather flee than fight a threat, but they will expel foul-smelling musk and feces from their cloaca as a defense mechanism.


4. Butler’s garter snake

Butler’s garter snake | image by Benny Mazur via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Thamnophis butleri

The Butler’s garter snake is found in the north central, central, and west central areas of Ohio. The average Butler’s garter snake can grow up to 15” to 20” in total length. They are named after an early Indiana naturalist, Amos Butler.

The Butler’s garter snake is olive-brown to black, with yellow or orange side stripes down the back. Sometimes there are 2 rows of dark spots between the side stripes and the back.

These snakes breed from March to April Females give live birth to anywhere from 4 to 16 young. They eat worms, leeches, frogs, and salamanders.

Butler’s garter snakes can be found in prairies, meadows, and any open space with some access to water and are classified as Least Threatened. When threatened or excited, they thrash from side to side with little forward movement and this helps identify the snake.


5. Eastern ribbon snake

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

Scientific name: Thamnophis sauritus

The eastern ribbonsnake belongs to the same family as the common garter snake and is a subspecies of ribbonsnake. It is found in the northern and eastern parts of Ohio. The average eastern ribbonsnake can grow up to 18” to 26” in total length.

The eastern ribbonsnake 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. 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 ribbonsnakes breed from July to August. Females give live birth to anywhere from 3 to 26 young. They eat frogs, salamanders, and freshwater fish. They don’t have venom, 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.

About Reptile Jam