Science in the Parks: Garter Snake

06 Aug

snake habitatArriving at the school yard a few weeks ago, I was greeted by a group of excited children who had just caught a baby ‘garden’ snake. They had it in a pickle jar. They planned on taking it home as a pet.

We all took turns holding it and then I explained to them it was called a “garter” and should keep it in a larger container. We pulled out the critter carrier from the car and hiked across the grass to the edge of the woods.

I explained to them the snake would like some sand, soil, and moss to keep things moist. We used a spoon to pull up a carpet of moss, layered it over some sand, soil with plants and topped the whole thing off with a piece of round bark. That made a nice habitat. We promised each other we would release the snake in a few weeks.

For food, we threw in some crickets, worms and woodlice.

shedding baby snakeThe snake was observed by many children in the next two weeks. Finally it was time to release. Just in time too because it was getting ready to molt. You can see in the photo the covering over the eyes and the whitishness of the scales.

snake release

garter snakeThe scientific name for the Common Garter Snake  is Thamnophis sirtalis. It is native to North American.

There are thirteen subspecies of this snake found across the continent.

This snake is diurnal, that means it comes out during the day. But in hot weather it is crepuscular, being active in early morning and early evening.

This snake bites. I know this from experience. But it is not poisonous. The main reason for not handling this snake often though is that it secretes a foul-smelling fluid from postanal glands when handled or harmed.

These snakes hibernate over the winter, emerging en-mass in the spring. A sight to behold if you ever get a chance.

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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Berkshire BioBlitz, Camps, Children's Art & Science Classes, Science, Uncategorized


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