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Common Gartersnakes Mating

4-30-15  common gartersnake IMG_9163Common Gartersnakes begin mating in the spring as soon as they emerge from brumation (a reptilian state of dormancy similar to hibernation in mammals, but involving different metabolic processes). The males leave the den first and wait for the females to exit. Once the females leave the den the males surround them, forming what is called a mating ball (one female and many males). The males give off pheromones that attract the female. After the female has chosen her mate and mated, she leaves. while the males stay to re-mate with other available females. The females have the ability to store the male’s sperm until it is needed and thus a female may not mate if she does not find a proper partner.

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13 responses

  1. Kathie Fiveash

    Amazing that a female garter snake in a writhing ball off horny males could have the power and the discrimination to either reject the whole crew or choose the best one. I watched a pair of courting water snakes yesterday. The reptile world is in romantic mode!

    May 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

    • I love your description of the female’s position! What behavior did you see with the water snakes???

      May 4, 2015 at 3:38 pm

  2. Penny March

    Are most dens below the frost line? How do the snakes stay hydrated during brumation and how long does it last?

    May 4, 2015 at 9:34 am

    • Yes, snakes, being ectothermic, or cold-blooded, must overwinter where it doesn’t freeze. Not sure about hydration, but their metabolism slows way down, so that must help. Roughly September/October to April/May. Great questions!

      May 4, 2015 at 3:37 pm

  3. Kathie Fiveash

    I saw 2 snakes, each about 2 feet long, traveling slowly, sometimes turning around, along a cattail/marshplant shoreline. They swam next to each other, or twined together, or followed each other. I kept losing sight of them, and then finding them again. They looked a lot alike, so I couldn’t tell if it was always the same one leading/following.

    May 4, 2015 at 3:55 pm

  4. Kathie Fiveash

    Also, reading your other answer, I wonder if the hibernaculum is pretty humid below the frostline there.

    May 4, 2015 at 3:56 pm

  5. Carolynn Sears

    So curious about garter snake because twice I have discovered newly hatched garter snakes in the house, in the early spring. How big are the eggs? When are they laid? 9Just how much does this reflect on my housekeeping standards?)

    May 4, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    • Gartersnakes mate in the spring, Carolynn, and give birth to live young July – September. I think what you must have had are overwintering first-year snakes in your house! Even the cleanest of the clean houses have them!

      May 5, 2015 at 7:18 am

  6. Susan Brown

    Common Gartersnakes mating: Your picture and writeUp this AM reminded me of a love fest I observed last June in my driveway. First, a large female relaxed in the sun and soon was joined by two excited and amorous males. First one male twisted up along the female wrapping himself around her, then the second male interrupted the date, the two males engaged each other, twisting along side each other. Meanwhile the female moved away into the grass with her two suitors following…..fascinating! I have a picture of the male and female together……amazing!
    I just LOVE your blog….thank you!

    May 4, 2015 at 9:28 pm

  7. Bill On The Hill...

    Hi Mary… A most excellent photograph & in particular freezing that forked tongue!
    I haven’t shot one this sharp yet but will endeavor to succeed!
    Great post.

    May 5, 2015 at 8:21 am

    • Hi Bill,
      I must have taken 1,000 photos, and this was the sharpest, but even so, it’s not as sharp as I’d like…some day…

      May 5, 2015 at 10:26 am

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