Virginia.gov

eastern gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)

Photos

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This is the only gartersnake throughout most of its range with lateral stripes confined to rows 2 and 3. There are normally 3 yellowish stripes, but they may be brownish, greenish, or bluish. There is usually a double row of alternating back spots between stripes. Occasionally, specimens are virtually stripeless. The belly is greenish or yellowish, with 2 rows of indistinct back spots partially hidden under the overlapping portions of the ventrals. This species is from 5-48 inches long. Juveniles are pattered as adults, but are brown on the back and whitish on the belly, and usually exhibit the checkerboard pattern of squarish black or dark brown and green blotches. The dorsal pattern darkens with age. This snake will mate on the first warm day after their emergence in spring. The young are born alive in late July or early August. They have 7-10 young/litter, which are 5-9 inches long at birth.

Distribution

Thamnophis sirtalis occurs statewide in Virginia, with the exception of the barrier islands. It is most abundant in mountains. This species needs caves for hibernation throughout the winter. Eastern gartersnakes are terrestrial and can be found in many types of habitats. These include hardwood and pine forests, lowland and upland grasslands and balds, abandoned fields in various stages of succession, along the margins of creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes, agricultural and urban areas, and freshwater marshes. It is sometimes found in suburban gardens and around barns and houses. Water is not a requirement, but moist areas are usually present or nearby.

Foods

This snake eats earthworms, millipedes, spiders, various insects, salamanders, frogs, and toads.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).