Maritime Garter Snake

gartersnakeMy 11-year-old reptile-loving boy discovered a snake in our greenhouse last week. After doing a little research, he decided it was a Maritime Garter Snake. Fortunately, all the species of snake found in the Maritimes are harmless. However, Maritime Garter Snakes will bite if a person tries to capture them.

Maritime Garter Snakes are usually a beautifully patterned cinnamon brown. They are the most often seen snakes in the Maritimes mainly because they are larger than other common species and because they like to bask in the sun during the day. They are also excellent swimmers.

They will put on an convincing display of defense if provoked. They inflate their lungs to puff themselves up, flatten their body until their skin shows between their scales, flick their tongues repeatedly and face their threat with an open mouth and will strike with amazing speed.

They prey on small animals such as earthworms, salamanders, small fish, toads, frogs, and rodents. Their forked tongue takes samples of particles in the air to a part on the roof of their mouth called Jacobson’s organ which helps them to find their prey.

During the winter, all snakes hibernate under boulders or against the foundations of buildings, or other protected places. Quite often several snakes will hibernate together, and then after breeding in the spring will disperse.

A few birds such as herons and hawks will eat snakes. As well, racoons, black bears and foxes are know to occasionally include them in their diet. Strangely enough though, it has been said that the domestic cat is one of the most significant predators of snakes.

Other common species seen in the Maritimes are the Northern Redbelly Snake (takes shelter during the day and eats slugs), the Northern Ribbon Snake (lives near water with aquatic vegetation and eats frogs), Northern Ringneck Snakes (inhabits woodland areas, takes shelter during day, and eats salamanders), and the Eastern Smooth Green Snake (lives in grassy, shrubby areas, shores of ponds, lakes, streams, or roadsides, is active during the day, rarely attempts to bite, will climb vegetation, eats moth larvae, spiders, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, millipedes, and small snails).

More information on snakes in the Maritime Provinces.

P.S. Did you know that up until recently there were NO snakes in Newfoundland? There have been some found by wildlife officials in the last few years. However, there are still no porcupines, skunks or racoons.

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