Couleuvre du Nord-Ouest
The Gartersnakes, and other live-bearing, harmless snakes, which were included within
the Family Colubridae, have recently been placed in the Family Natricidae.
The Northwestern Gartersnake varies in colour from brown, greenish, bluish or black, but it
usually has a distinct red, orange or yellow stripe down the middle of the back. The belly
is yellow or gray, often with
The Northwestern Gartersnake can grow to over 60 cm in total length.
There are two other Gartersnakes found in BC. The
Terrestrial Gartersnake has a yellow or brown stripe down the back, but has small black
blotches on the back and sides. The two subspecies of the
Common Gartersnake in British Columbia (the
Valley Gartersnake and the
Puget Sound Gartersnake) can be quite similar to
the Northwestern Gartersnake but to a much larger size and are more apt to be black in
background colour. The side stripes are confined to the second and third scale rows.
The Northwestern Gartersnake is limited to southern coastal British Columbia and most of
Vancouver Island. To the south it is also limited to the coast, south to northern
Northwestern Gartersnakes occur in a variety habitats, but are generally associated with
water. They are rarely found far from dense thickets.
Breeding occurs either in the spring or fall. As in all Gartersnakes, females no not lay
eggs but give birth to their young. From 3-15 young are born during the summer. The young
are 15-18 cm in total length at birth.
The Northwestern Gartersnake eats a wide variety of animals including slugs, earthworms,
fish, frogs and toads, small snakes, small mammals and birds. It is most active on sunny
days. When approached it often moves quickly into the safety of thick vegetation.
This species is relatively common where it occurs in BC and is considered to be not at risk.