During these first days of April, Common Gartersnakes emerge from their hibernacula and often bask in the sun near the den where they spent the winter. (At this time they are more approachable than later in the season, should you desire a close look at one.) Males usually appear first; when the females appear, the males follow them in hot pursuit.
Common Gartersnakes are known for their impressive courtship ritual. Prior to copulation, as many as a hundred males will often writhe around a single female, forming a mass which is referred to as a “mating ball.” The male closest to the female rubs his chin on the head, back and sides of the female while aligning himself with her and eventually mating takes place. When it does, the other males that were in the mating ball leave and seek out other females. Female gartersnakes mate once; male may mate with several females. (Photo by Sally Fellows)
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