Aquatic Garter Snake

Aquatic Garter Snake
Thamnophis atratus

Although garter snakes are found across the United States, aquatic garter snakes are only found in the coastal regions of California north of Santa Barbara, and the southern Oregon coast.

They eat fish, salamanders, toads, and newts.  Garter snakes do not have venom, nor do they constrict to subdue prey. Instead, they quickly grab prey by mouth and gulp it down whole!  In shallow water, aquatic garter snakes will encircle prey with their body and then strike as they try to escape.

These snakes are ovoviviparous—the females incubate their shell-less eggs internally, and the babies hatch as she lays the eggs. Aquatic garter snakes have smaller litters (only 3 to 12 young) than other species, but often can have several litters a year.

Our garter snake, Ribbon, was admitted to our wildlife hospital in 2007 after being caught in a grate. She needed two surgeries, including a special skin graft, to repair the injury.  Although Ribbon recovered, she cannot properly expand to eat larger wild food items such as toads, which are her typical prey in the wild. As a result, it was determined that she cannot be returned to the wild.  Here at Lindsay Wildlife, keepers feed her smaller food items on a more frequent schedule to accommodate her injury. 

Ribbon is much loved by our volunteers. She has her very own water tub, known as “Ribbon’s Party Tub” where she comes out to take a swim while her enclosure is cleaned.