Custom Search

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans)

While riding along the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon yesterday I was so busy scanning the horizon for sea-birds that I nearly drove over this little snake as he was crossing the road. In fact, it was such a near miss that I stopped to go back and check to see if he was OK. I'm happy to say I hadn't harmed him and he stayed around long enough for me to capture the above photo. According to an informative article by the Comox Valley Naturalists Society there are 4 species of snake resident on Vancouver Island, three of which are garter snakes. None of them are poisonous or aggressive. This is the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans), characterized by the yellow stripe down his back and brown diamonds on his sides. Garter Snakes are the most widely distributed North American reptile. These are generally pretty small snakes although I have seen some more than 3 feet (1 meter) long. The snake above was about 18 inches (50 cm.) long.

8 comments:

Steffe said...

Nice shot of the snake. I was chasing a viper today in a nature reserve. I could only get one (crappy), shot before it disappeared.

Mike Laplante said...

Years ago in Colwood in our lawn, I picked up a bright emerald coloured snake, about 7 or 8 inches long. I kept it long enough to show my boys then let it go. New to the island, I assumed it was some native snake unknown to me.
Since then, I talked with several local biologists and naturalists about it. They all informed me that no snake with such a description lives here naturally. I sometimes wonder just what it is I found that day...

Mike Laplante said...

My 2nd snake story...
In the zoology archive collection of the Royal BC Museum, they have a pickled garter snake the size of a rattle-snake. (I saw it while working at the museum...) It was discovered on one of the Gulf Islands around the turn of the 20th century as I recall. It is an example of 'gigantism' where certain animals can grow to many time their normal size under the right environment conditions and an absence of predators.
If I ever came across that thing in my lawn, it would freak me out.

Dean Lewis said...

I've only seen them in the forest close to the beaches, for some reason.
Ben, did you pick him up?
I couldn't resist the temptation :)

Carolyn said...

Ben, this such a great shot. They scare the beejessus out of me when surprised by them but they are wonderful to watch. Years ago I watched one persue a frog through tall grass, he would slither through the grass and then periscope up to "feel" the frog with his tongue and then continue the persuit. Eating the frog he caught is a whole other story! Thanks for sharing this great photo.
Smiles

JoJo said...

"Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?" Indiana Jones

*gathers skirts and runs screaming*

Benjamin Madison said...

Steffe - chasing poisonous snakes can backfire - once I was approaching a cobra for a better look and he started chasing me.

Thanks Mike for your snake stories - as for the green snake - it just reminds me that there are still plenty of things to discover.

Dean, no I didn't pick him up - have pungent memories of picking up snakes as a boy and smelling snake crap for the rest of the day.

Carolyn/JoJo - even the most harmless little snake is always a little scary.

Dana said...

Neat photo! I don't mind snakes so much, but it's probably because I've only ever encountered these small, non-poisonous ones.