Fun Giant Garter Snake Facts For Kids

Arpitha Rajendra
Jan 13, 2023 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Tehil David
Read these interesting Giant Garter Snake facts.

The Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) is a species of the Colubridae family and is the largest species of garter snake in North America. These garter snakes have brown, olive, or black scales with dorsal stripe and patterns.

These snake species can grow up to 64 in (25 cm) long. These snakes are semi-aquatic and scarce. They are active in water bodies when the temperature is high.

The reproductive strategies of male and female giant garter snakes are different. The venom of these snakes does not pose a threat to humans.

The giant garter snake range is small and is endemic to the Central Valley in California. Over the years, these snakes have evolved to have a fast-diving behavior to escape predators. When they feel threatened, they release a musk-foul smell.

These snakes are the prey of California kingsnakes and American bullfrogs. As they mostly eat fish with high mercury levels, their bloodstreams have a high level of heavy metal components.

You may also enjoy reading our smooth green snake and water snake facts.

Giant Garter Snake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Giant Garter Snake?

The Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) is a type of snake that is active during spring in the day,  but hibernates or retreats in winter in terrestrial surroundings. They are semi-aquatic species.

What class of animal does a Giant Garter Snake belong to?

The Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) is of the Reptilia class of animals.

How many Giant Garter Snakes are there in the world?

The exact number of the giant garter snake is unknown.

Where does a Giant Garter Snake live?

This species of garter snake is endemic to the Central Valley of California. The range of their habitat is from San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento in central California to some fragmented parts in Sacramento valley.

What is a Giant Garter Snake's habitat?

The historical habitat range of these species is from wetlands like tule mushes to slow-moving waters. They are mostly found near the water surface and only sometimes have been found few meters deep in the water. They do not disperse to new habitats, as they are semiaquatic.

It is one of the reasons that the populations of these are fragmenting. So, they might occupy the same habitat even if the area is destroyed. They are found in the rice agricultural artificial wetlands.

During the active season, they are highly aquatic. As they require thermoregulation water, they do not prefer fast-moving cold water bodies. They are highly active underwater that is more than 68°F (20° C).

The habitat of these snakes has emergent vegetation, which protects them from predation. These endangered species spend the most time on land underground during active seasons and brumation. They are active during the day in spring till fall.

They hibernate in winter in small mammal burrows. They live underground when the water temperature is low. They occupy vegetation or litter when they are not underground.

They live in the canals in agricultural rice fields where they receive abundant water, food, and cover. As these agricultural lands are mostly private properties, conservation and studies on this endangered species are hard. They can also be found in State Wildlife areas and Federal National Wildlife Refugees.

Who do Giant Garter Snakes live with?

The giant garter snakes live on their own.

How long does a Giant Garter Snake live?

The lifespan of these threatened species is 15-20 years.

How do they reproduce?

The giant garter snakes carry eggs internally, giving birth to live snakes (ovoviviparous). The male snake species emerge from hibernation in March to mid-May and search for a female. The young ones are born from July to October.

The reproductive strategies of males and females are different. It was observed that in early spring, the males expend more energy than females in searching for a mate, feeding, and forgoing. So, they have decreased body conditions.

On the other hand, females have improved body conditions for embryo development. Another observation was that the gravid females bask more often in the sun than males and non-gravid females. The female gestation period is two to three months. The basking aids the embryo's growth.

During mating, the male and female entwine themselves. The females produce 3-80 young ones. The number depends on the size of the female snakes.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of a giant garter snake is Vulnerable. They are threatened due to the destruction of habitat and wetlands, as per the U.S Fish and Wildlife service. People are making recovery plans to provide the habitat and recover the numbers.

Giant Garter Snake Fun Facts

What do Giant Garter Snakes look like?

The giant garter snakes of the genus Thamnophis and family Colubridae are the largest. The scales of these snakes are keeled. The body is black, brown, olive, or dark gray-colored. They have a yellow dorsal stripe and two yellow stripes running along the body.

They also have some checkered patterns like spots. They can grow up to five feet. They have olive, cream, or brown-colored undersides. The population in the north has orange infused with the colors.

The giant garter snake is the most common snake found in North America.

How cute are they?

Many people think these snakes are not cute.

How do they communicate?

These snakes communicate by shaking their tail in a particular manner. They also use their tongue and vibrations to sense any prey in the surroundings.

How big is a Giant Garter Snake?

The giant garter snake size range is 37-65 in (94-165 cm ) long.

How fast can a Giant Garter Snake move?

The data on their speed is not available.

How much does a Giant Garter Snake weigh?

The garter snake's weight range is between 1-1.5 lb (0.4-0.6 kg). The females are bigger than the male snakes.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to these male and female snake species.

What would you call a baby Giant Garter Snake?

There is no specific name given to the baby giant garter snakes. They are usually referred to as young ones or juveniles.

What do they eat?

These endangered species feed on frogs, tadpoles, and fish. They used to prey on the Sierran treefrog and the adult feed on the young American bullfrog. In captivity, they can eat frozen fish, earthworms, frogs, and rodents.

Are they poisonous?

These endangered species are venomous. The venom is used on their prey and is harmless to humans. The venom, if injected into a human would only cause a swollen area around the wound. Some humans might have an allergic reaction to the venom, which can cause anaphylactic shock.

Would they make a good pet?

Yes. They would make a great pet. They are one of the many pet snakes. They can get used to handling once they get familiar with it.

Did you know...

These garter snake species are twice the average size of other garter snakes.

The garter snakes reach maturity slower than several other snake species. The age they reach maturity is between three and five years. Other small snakes reach maturity faster which is within two years.

These species got their name due to the stripes on their body, which resembles the garter that was worn by people to hold up their socks.

Why are Giant Garter Snakes endangered?

The population of these snakes in the San Joaquin valley is lower, and the snakes are scattered, and 98% of the population has been wiped out. These snakes are listed as threatened due to the loss of their habitat and the wetlands, as per the U.S Fish and Wildlife service.

On the other hand, the agricultural rice fields in Sacramento valley have provided these species a habitat. So, these snakes would leave the ditches to occupy rice fields.

The adult American bullfrogs feed on young ones, which is causing hindrance in the giant garter snake recovery plan.

They are also prone to diseases like parasite contraction when the adult snake species feed on the young bullfrog. As they consume several small fish with high mercury levels, further research is needed to determine the effects of any fish on these snake species.

What is the biggest Garter Snake?

The biggest garter snakes are the threatened giant garter snakes. They grow to their maximum length in just the first two years of their lifespan.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including the Burmese python, or corn snake.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Giant garter snake coloring pages.

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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Fact-checked by Tehil David

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Tehil David picture

Tehil DavidBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Tehil David Singh is a fact checker with a Bachelor's degree in English literature from St.Xavier's College, Palayamkottai, and a Master's degree in Philosophy, and Religion from Madurai Kamaraj University. He has a passion for writing and hopes to become a story writer in the future. Tehil has previously interned in content writing and has been a content creator for the last three years. In his personal life, he enjoys singing, songwriting, performing, and writing stories.

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