Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Serpentes, Family Colubridae

Eastern Gartersnake
Thamnophis s. sirtalis

Photo of Eastern Gartersnake courtesy of John White
Photo of Eastern Gartersnake courtesy of John White

Size

18 - 26 inches. Record - 48 inches.

Appearance

  • The back is greenish, olive, brown or black with a distinct yellow or white stripe down the centerline.

  • There may also be a white to yellow stripe on either side of the centerline stripe, though less distinct, and the area between these stripes is often a checkerboard pattern of blackish and green spots.

  • Sometimes the stripes are absent, and only the spotting remains.

  • The belly is cream to yellowish green and generally unmarked except there may be some dark spots on the edge of the belly scales.

  • Scales keeled.

  • Close-up Photo of Eastern Gartersnake courtesy of Corey Wickliffe
    Close-up Photo of Eastern Gartersnake courtesy of Corey Wickliffe

    Habitats

    Common in a variety of habitats including forests, meadows, old fields, riparian areas, freshwater marshes, ditches and backyards. Some source of moisture is usually nearby.

    How to Find

    Spend enough time in the outdoors and you will encounter this common diurnal snake. Look particularly along wetland edges. A fairly aggressive snake, they readily strike and bite. If handled they will release a foul smelling musk. Non-venomous, though a few allergic reactions to bites have been reported.

    Photo of Habitat for Eastern Gartersnake courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
    Photo of Habitat for Eastern Gartersnake courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers

    Distribution in Maryland

    Statewide.

    Maryalnd Distribution Map for Eastern Gartersnake

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.