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Common Gartersnakes Mating

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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6 responses

  1. Alice

    😳🤭 ‘mating ball’ is an interesting term. I like seeing snakes in the yard, especially Eastern Ringneck snakes.

    April 8, 2020 at 8:22 am

  2. ❤️

    On Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 7:40 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “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 o” >

    April 8, 2020 at 8:30 am

  3. The Sun was warm and the wind was still………… We’ve just lost the snowpack. I think it may be a couple weeks before the snakes in my next-year wood pile stir.

    April 8, 2020 at 10:01 am

  4. I had no idea that they mated so early, probably a little later here as I am north of the Great Lakes. That is interesting as the young I don’t see until late August or September. Thanks!

    April 9, 2020 at 6:25 pm

  5. hellomolly

    I wonder how the male who courts the female by rubbing her head manages to find the cloaca on the correct snake body among all the writhing males.

    May 13, 2020 at 10:50 am

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