Plains Gartersnake / Couleuvre des Plaines
The Gartersnakes, and other live-bearing, harmless snakes, which were included
within the Family Colubridae, have recently been placed in the Family Natricidae.
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.
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.
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.
The Plains Gartersnake is often found in the of ponds, lakes, streams and marshes
within the prairie.
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.
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.
This species is considered common within its range.