Fun African Garter Snake Facts For Kids

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 20, 2022 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
African garter snake facts on a venomous snake.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.9 Min

There are a total of 35 species of garter snakes in the world. Some of them include the eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), common garter snake, and the black garter snake. The African garter snake((Elapsoidea) is in the same family.

African garter snakes (Elapsoidea) are endemic to central and South Africa. African garter snakes stink when they release a foul smell when they feel threatened.

They are not active at night and they are seen sleeping in large nests. They are active only during the day. They also have a hibernation period after they mate and give birth to their young.

African garter snakes (Elapsoidea) are carnivorous snakes and also venomous, so they are also known by common names like venomous garter snakes. Their venom, however, is not too dangerous or capable of killing a human being.

These snakes attack or bite only when they are placed in a position of threat and danger. They have small teeth which need to be treated immediately if they attack humans.

For more relatable content, check out sea snake facts and common garter snake facts.

African Garter Snake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an African garter snake?

The African garter snake (Elapsoidea) is a snake that belongs to the kingdom Animalia and order Squamata.

What class of animal does an African garter snake belong to?

African garter snakes are a type of snake which belongs to the class Reptilia, family Elapidae, and genus Elapsoidea. They were originally described in a genus other than what they have been classified under. However, they are now described in genus Elapsoidea.

How many African garter snakes are there in the world?

The African garter snake's (Elapsoidea) population is expected to be more than 1 million adults in the world. They are similar to garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) or the black garter and other garter snake species. African garter snakes are popularly known by their other common names, such as the venomous garter snake.

Where does an African garter snake live?

The African garter snake (Elapsoidea) range includes woodlands, arid regions, and meadows. African garter snakes live in central Africa as well as South Africa. They often climb trees in search of prey and they hibernate in groups.

What is an African garter snake's habitat?

African garter snake's habitat range includes woodlands, arid regions, and meadows. African garter snakes are carnivorous beings and are unrelated to the North American garter snake species although their name is similar. Garter snakes seen in North America and the United States are completely different.

Who does an African garter snake live with?

An African garter snake lives in dens and lives in groups. They may travel long distances for hibernation after they have mated and laid their eggs. They may climb into shrubs or vines.

How long does an African garter snake live?

An African garter snake's exact lifespan is not known. Their life depends on various factors including their diet and habitat. A ball python is estimated to be the oldest snake in the world and can live up to 62 years.

How do they reproduce?

African garter snakes emerge from hibernation in spring and in the fall,  they reproduce. They live within the groups that they hibernate in. Female garter snakes release pheromones in order to attract males.

Multiple males are attracted to a single female in some instances. The formation they make when they gather together in groups is often called a 'mating ball'.

During courtship, males try to distract other males from females by trying to attract them, and when they seek the right opportunity, they mate with the female. A female may give birth to 20-40 live young ones at a time, usually during July and October. Parent African garters are not involved in raising their young.

What is their conservation status?

The African garter snake status is classified as a Least Concern species by the International Union For Conservation Of Nature IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

African Garter Snake Fun Facts

What do African garter snakes look like?

African garter snakes are small to medium-sized snakes. They are known to have dry scales over their body similar to snakes and other reptiles. Pattern and coloration may vary across subspecies.

They also shed their skin every four to five weeks, however as they grow, the amount of shedding declines. They have three longitudinal stripes which appear yellow or green but may vary from one region to another.

Their head is short with small round eyes, enlarged scale, and a snout. Their tail is pointed at and short. They have two dark-colored eyes on either side of their face, and they are usually spotted in groups.

Garter Snake

* Please note that this image is of a garter snake, not an African garter snake. If you have an image of an African garter snake please let us know at hello@kidadl.com.

How cute are they?

These small to medium-sized snakes are not cute, but rather exotic beings. They are a venomous species and should not be approached since they are known to release a foul smell to distract you before they bite.

How do they communicate?

They are not verbal beings and primarily communicate via pheromones. These reptiles of southern Africa and central Africa use the vomeronasal system to track their prey.

They also use smell to track their predators. They also communicate via a foul smell they release to distract predators. Such a phenomenon is only seen in garter snakes and not in other subspecies of garter snakes.

How big is an African garter snake?

The African garter snake is 35.4 in (90 cm) in body length which is 20 times bigger than the smallest snake in the world, the Barbados thread snake which measures 4.1 in (10.4 cm) in body length.

How fast can an African garter snake move?

An African garter snake moves fast. Snakes and other reptiles are quick in their movements. The black mamba is the fastest snake in the world and can travel 12.5 mph (20.1 kph).  

How much does an African garter snake weigh?

An African garter snake weighs 0.3 lb (140 g). The green anaconda is the heaviest snake in the world and weighs around 500.4 lb (227 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female snakes are not addressed differently. Male and female snakes are difficult to tell apart considering they have similar appearances. However, they differ in reproductive functions and also in the way they communicate.

What would you call a baby African garter snake?

A baby African garter snake is referred to as a snake singular or snakelets in the plural. Parents are not too involved in raising the young however the neonate lives with its mother, the females, for approximately two weeks until the first shed when they become independent.

What do they eat?

These reptiles of southern Africa and central Africa feed on earthworms, slugs, snails, lizards, birds, fish, and amphibians. They are carnivores and prefer amphibians. They are quick to attack and they attack with their teeth. The saliva of these snakes contains a chemical that causes paralysis making feeding on their prey easier.

Are they poisonous?

The African garter snake is a terrestrial being and is venomous as well. Their venom will not cause fatality if treated immediately.

They usually attack by biting which can become infected if not treated quickly. The first step to do when you are stung is to try to suck out the venom and apply ice or water around the area. If this does not work, seek medical help or medications.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they should not be kept as pets. They survive best in the wild in their natural habitat, which is a similar case to the eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). If you are interested in adopting snakes as pets, you should consider other snakes species which are nonvenomous or at least non-harmful like corn snake and carpet python.

Did you know...

There are a total of 3,789 species of snakes in the world. These snakes are divided into 30 different families. The African garter snake is one subspecies among the same family and belongs to the genus Elapsoidea.

Snakes smell with their tongues in the habitat range they live in. Garter snakes also release a foul smell when they sense threat. This is a feature present only in this species of snakes.

When eating food, snakes consume more than half their food inside since their digestive track does most of the work once the food is ingested. Their flexible jaws cause them to get a proper grip on their prey.

Are garter snakes aggressive?

They do not like to be close to any other species but their own. They are usually spotted together in groups in their natural habitat. They also don't attack unless they are in a position of threat.

Despite being small, they are venomous snakes and so it is best to maintain a safe distance from them. Their temperament is described as short-tempered, however, they do calm down if they are used to being handled. Don't let their appearance deceive you!

Do garter snakes sleep at night?

Yes, these reptiles sleeps at night and so they are not active at night. They are not nocturnal beings. These snakes rest together in groups at night which keeps them protected from predators.

These snakes also enter a period of hibernation after they mate and lay eggs. This species of snakes is not used to being caressed or touched, and are venomous. Despite this, they only attack when they feel under threat.

Did you know snakes don't have eyelids? They sleep with their eyes wide open instead of closing their eyelids. They have a thin membrane that acts as protection for their eyes.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these plain bellied water snake facts and smooth green snake facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable African garter snake coloring pages.

* Please note that this is an image of a garter snake, not an African garter snake. If you have an image of an African garter snake please let us know at hello@kidadl.com.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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