Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
Colonel Samuel Smith Park
Toronto, ON
3 September 2014

     I found myself with about a half hour to kill while waiting to go to an appointment, so I decided to do a little birding at Colonel Samuel Smith Park.

The birding was very slow indeed with a true paucity of both species and numbers, but I observed this Eastern Garter Snake in the water.

     While most snakes have the ability to swim, and some species are primarily found in or close to water, I had never previously seen a Garter Snake in water, nor is this behaviour mentioned in the two references I have on my shelves. This species which is quite common in southern Ontario can attain a length of 66 cm and I would conjecture that this individual was approaching that size. I cannot recall ever having seen a bigger specimen.

     I observed the snake for about four minutes and it made no attempt to locate prey as far I could tell, and small minnows, and doubtless frogs were in the area. It finally moved into a stand of dense phragmites and disappeared from view.

Literature consulted:

Conant R. and Collins, J.T., 1998, Reptiles and Amphibians East Central North America, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY

Cook, F.R., 1984, Introduction to Canadian Amphibians and Reptiles, National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, ON


  1. A beautiful snake in very attractive location, David. I'm sorry to hear it didn't turn up much bird life but, for me, the snake would have more than compensated for that. I do like snakes, particularly if (like this one) they are not venemous, but I understand that this one has a tendency to bite if handled!

  2. Hello David
    Nice place to spend the time when you have to wait.
    The snake I find beautiful to see.
    Here are fortunately not many snakes, just in the middle of the country.

  3. It's a beautifully marked snake, and certainly worth the time you spent observing it while waiting for your appointment.

  4. Wonderful photos of unusual guest on your blog!!
    That is a species we don't get here.
    Actually I have seen very few snakes around my place this year.... too bad, they are so useful!

  5. I love snakes and have only seen a Garter Snake in the water twice before - and oddly both were this summer during my camping trip. Maybe it was the same snake! Really nice documentation of it swimming, David.

  6. What a lovely spot there! If you do have to wait, you can indeed do it in a nice place:-) Beautiful nature and water, and I'm glad you found a snake in there!

  7. I remember lots of those at Long Point. Very tempting and indeed interesting to pick up and examine but regretted it mostly due to the noxious smell they gave off. I Googled this "Most garter snakes also secrete a foul-smelling fluid from postanal glands when handled or harmed."