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Common Gartersnakes Giving Birth

8-15-14  common gartersnake 082Common Gartersnakes mate soon after emerging from hibernation in the spring, in March or April, and four months later the females give birth to live young. The newborn snakes are 5 to 9 inches long at birth and from day one have to fend for themselves. Their diet at this early stage consists of earthworms, insects, slugs, tadpoles, small frogs and fish. If there is an abundant supply of food, the young snakes can grow as much as 1 ½ inches a month during their first year. Earthworms are their preferred diet and gartersnakes are known for their ability to find them, even underground. It turns out that earthworms produce a chemical substance in their skin that is easily detected by (and attractive to) Common Gartersnakes. (Thanks to Eli Holland, who located the worm-eating newborn Common Gartersnake in the photograph.)

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12 responses

  1. olivia

    Interesting to see how the markings of a newborn garter snake differ from the adult. i assume the whole family, and that of the earthworm too, hibernate in winter? …but they keep growing in their hibernation an inch and a half? I’ve been making friends with a garter snake who lives in the stone wall outside my studio as i come and go, but seeing the newborn makes my heart leap! thanks again for your ever-fascinating window into this mysterious world of nature. Olivia

    August 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    • Hi Olivia,
      Yes, both snakes and earthworms hibernate, but their metabolism slows way down and growth comes to halt for the most part. It resumes growing upon emergence from hibernation. I should have made that clearer! Thanks.

      August 15, 2014 at 2:09 pm

  2. anthonyvenable110

    Reblogged this on anthonyvenable110 and commented:
    Actually that looks more like Dekays Snake (storeria dekayi). I used to catch them when I was a kid. There also called Brown snakes.

    August 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    • There is some resemblance between Common Gartersnakes and DeKay’s Brown Snakes but juvenile DeKay’s have a ring around their neck, and the adults have a wide, light brown stripe down the center of their back.

      August 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

      • anthonyvenable110

        Ok, my mistake

        August 17, 2014 at 3:22 am

  3. Irma Graf

    So cool, Mary! Is Eli a grandchild?

    August 15, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    • Eli is my great nephew! No grandchildren yet…

      August 15, 2014 at 11:17 pm

  4. Allen Hood

    Thanks for the info on garter snakes. I have loved ever since I discovered them as youngster. I never knew what to feed them, though. So, I could not have one as a pet.

    August 16, 2014 at 10:57 am

  5. It doesn’t look like the baby garter snakes I have here in Ontario at all./Users/amyquinn/Desktop/P1180606.jpg

    August 25, 2014 at 7:02 am

  6. Northern Water Snake or Eastern Milk Snake?

    August 25, 2014 at 7:08 am

  7. Susan Brown

    Is this a baby snake eating an earthworm or a female giving birth? Thank you for clearing up my confusion…..just LOVE your blog!

    August 25, 2014 at 11:37 am

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