Walking on a sunny day in the spring you might catch a glimpse of a small, slender snake sunning itself on a rocky outcrop. Garter snakes are common reptiles of Western Washington forests and are known as a friend to farmers and gardeners. They are active March- November and hibernate in the winter months. Like all reptiles, garter snakes use sunlight and shade, also known as thermoregulation, to keep their body at the correct temperature. They are diurnal, meaning they are most active during daylight hours. Interestingly, unlike most reptiles, garter snakes do not lay eggs but instead give live birth.
Western Washington is home to 3 different species of garter snakes. The Common Garter Snake has 3 subspecies, including the Puget Sound Garter which has a turquoise to yellow dorsal (back) stripe. We also have the Western Terrestrial Garter, but the subspecies found here prefers to live near water. Another species, the Northwestern Garter eats primarily slugs and earthworms and is known as a friend to gardeners and farmers for this reason. This is the most land-based of the garter snakes.