Garter Snake Care Guide & Info

garter snake white bg

Okay, so most of your friends have snakes, and you are the only one that is left!

We can understand what you are going through, and that is precisely why we came out with this!

A garter snake could well be the starting point of your incredible long journey of keeping reptile pets. You are thanking us already, eh!

What is it about the garter snake that we so strongly recommend?

  • The snake belongs to a family called colubrid, which has close to about 250 species spread across the world except for Antarctica, of course. This means that obtaining a garter snake is much easier than scoring a centum in mathematics (oops, wrong analogy!)
  • They are not venomous, and they do not kill by constricting their prey.
  • They are harmless around humans and your children
  • They are very active in the day. You can show it off to your friends (modesty is not a virtue, ok!)
  • They have excellent eyesight and a very keen sense of smell that allows them to hunt and capture their prey.

In the wild, garter snakes are mostly found where there is water; streams rivers, ponds, lakes, marshes, etc. Garter snakes caught from the wild are, however, not very common. It is mostly because snake keepers encounter hell of trouble with their feeding habits.

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Captive-bred young snakes in various colors and morphs are readily available post-spring, which marks the end of their birthing season. Experienced breeders will make sure that the species is healthy and has no history of carrying dangerous diseases.

Salmonella is always a risk, though

Almost all the reptiles in the world are known carriers of Salmonella virus. This is the reason that breeders will try to drill it into your head that you will need to thoroughly wash after yourself and kids if you have handled the snake, its habitat, or anything that comes into contact with it.

common garter snake

Garter Snake’s Size and lifespan

Garter snakes are slim in size. Male snakes are thinner than females. But the females grow longer than males. The baby snakes will resemble overgrown worms. In time their bodies also thicken to resemble their parents.

In the wild, they are expected to live about 5 years maximum. But there is documented proof of Garters living as long as a decade when their keepers look after them like their babies. Reptile health products and supplements available in the market, along with prudent medical care, can help your pet spend a considerable amount of time in each other’s company.

Garter snake habitat is not at all a complicated job!

While expert breeders will prefer a rack system to store their snakes, for a hobbyist, a reptile terrarium made of glass or acrylic with a screen separately will do an excellent job.

Decorating the glass terrarium is so therapeutic; you will love to play around with the different reptile accessories. These snakes are quite active, and they are going to be highly appreciative of all the meddling around often.

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Place a tall plant with thick, strong branches for them to climb. The most decent size of terrarium for one adult is pegged at 30 gallons. A female garter will need some more space (remember they are bigger than their counterparts!).

Want to house them together? Then a minimum of 55 gallons! Can you afford that kind of place? Considering that even if you do, you must separate them at mealtimes, otherwise one may become the prey for the other! Incidental cannibalism is high amongst colubrid.

garter snake grass

Other important Garter Snake requirements:

1. UV lights

These are not so important considering that these snakes are active in the day. A fluorescent, compact lamp will be enough to maintain a night and day cycle if the snakes are housed indoors. In case you opt not to have UVA and UVB lights, you must dust snake food with calcium and vitamin powder so that they provide Vitamin D3 to them.

2. Basking area

It is a compulsory requirement for the snake to digest its food correctly. Maintaining a steady temperature in the range of 90 and 95 F is a sine qua non for their health.

3. Heat source

Basking light, basking tapes, or heated mats placed under the terrarium are good options to maintain correct heat levels.

4. Humidity

Garter snakes need the right amount of humidity when they are shedding. It is advised that the cage be not kept excessively damp or wet because this is seen to cause blisters in them.

Keep a large submerging water dish that is heavy enough not to be toppled when the snake gets in and out of it. This will help in maintaining the correct amount of humidity. In winters, you must take care to cover the screen only partially to maintain correct levels of humidity inside the cage/terrarium.

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5. Substrate

For any other snake, we’d recommend a newspaper for being inexpensive and easily available. But not for garters!

Garters have an exceptionally high metabolic rate, and they can soil it so much that you will need to do the tidying up more than once in the day. Newspapers are ruled out because you will need something more absorbent.

Garters also like to burrow. The best that we have arrived for a substrate is

  • Newspaper pulp (little more hard work there!)
  • Aspen
  • Wood pellets

What you must avoid for substrate:

  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Dirt
  • Aromatic wood shavings

Garter Snake’s Diet

Chuck the insect diet seriously!

Garters have a good appetite for live reptiles, amphibians, and small birds and animals. You could buy readymade frozen food and thaw it to feed it. Include more variety by killing fresh food and serving it while it is still warm. Do not feed too many fishes because it is linked to contracting a dangerous vitamin disease that is most often fatal.

Handling the Garter Snake

Let the snakes settle in before you start to handle them too often. Unsettled snakes can get defensive and can strike at you because they are feeling insecure or sensing danger. Give them time and attention, and in time they will get used to having you around just like a glove.

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