Visit our new website

Canadian Herpetological Society





Société d'herpétologie du Canada



Thamnophis radix
Plains Gartersnake / Couleuvre des Plaines


Plains Gartersnake

The Gartersnakes, and other live-bearing, harmless snakes, which were included within the Family Colubridae, have recently been placed in the Family Natricidae.

Description
This is a long slender snake reaching up to a metre total length. It has a bright yellow or orange stripe down the back, and a yellow or orange and blackish checkerboard pattern on the side. A paler cream or yellow side stripe follows the third and fourth scale rows and below this is a row of black spots.

Confusing Species
Other striped snakes found within its range are the Red-sided Gartersnake, a subspecies of the Common Gartersnake and the Wandering Gartersnake. Both of these species have the side stripe confined to the second and third scale rows so that it appears lower on the body. In the Western Terrestrial Gartersnake both top and side stripes are the same colour.

Distribution
In Canada the Plains Gartersnake is found in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In the US it is distributed through the Great Plains as far south as New Mexico.

Habitat
The Plains Gartersnake is often found in the of ponds, lakes, streams and marshes within the prairie.

Reproduction
Like other Gartersnakes, the Plains Gartersnake is live-bearing rather than egg-laying. From 5-40 young are usually born in mid to late summer although up to 92 have been produced from a single litter. Young may be up to 19 cm total length.

Natural History
The Plains Gartersnake feeds on fish, amphibians, small mammals, worms and insects. It commonly hunts along the edge of water and may even swim to escape predators or hunt prey. It hibernates in rock piles or mammal burrows. When handled it may spray faeces and a foul smelling musk in an attempt to escape.

Conservation Concerns
This species is considered common within its range.