10 Types of Garter Snakes

Types of Garter Snakes
Photo by Nature-Pix

How many types of garter snakes do you know? Or, should the first question be, have you heard of garter snakes before? If the word garter isn’t familiar to you, here’s a common term, garden.

Garter snakes are types of garden snakes found in Canada and North America. They also inhabit a variety of habitats, like ponds and forests.

These creatures are wild and venomous but not as aggressive and dangerous as other snakes. Garter snakes also feed on garden pests like rodents and slugs, making them beneficial.

There’s a wide range of these snakes, but in this post, we’ll discuss the main and most common garter snake species.

1. Short-headed Garter Snake

Short-headed garter snakes wouldn’t pass for garter snakes according to the basic physical standards of classifications.

They are tinier than others, but this makes them look cuter, too—an adult snake can be as short as 10 inches, and the longest goes to about 22 inches.

This species is characterized by highly defined longitudinal stripes and a range of colors. Typically, a short-headed snake has brown as the main color with a touch of dull gold, tan, and light cream.  And as the name tells, the head is short and distinguished from the rest of the body. 

2. Red-sided Garter Snake

These types of garter snakes are rare and will also not be found in the Midwestern United States like most other species.

Red-sided garter snakes are mainly in the north and are not easily seen in yards and gardens. They also hibernate from extremely cold weather and appear during warmer winter days.

It’s easy to spot these decorated creatures. Their base colors are black or brown, decorated with light cream or yellowish stripes.

Some have black and red patterns covering the whole body, while the sides have orange or red bars. The amount of red differs from one snake to the other.

3. Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern garter snakes are some of the most common and diverse garden snakes. They represent their various regions of origin with different colors and patterns.

Amazing, right? By its physical appearance, you can tell a New Hampshire snake from a Mississippi river one.

While the base colors range from olive to black or brown, the decorative colors can be blue, red, or yellow. Most of them have a longitudinal stripe on the spine, and the patterns are either blotches, stripes, or spots. Adult snakes are between 18 to 26 inches long.

4. Black-Necked Garter Snake

Black-Necked garter snakes are beautifully colored and diversely patterned. They are mostly found in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.

As their name suggests, these snake species have black marks on their neck and usually cream or yellow blotches on their longitudinal sides. 

There are two main sub-species of this snake species: The Eastern and the Western black-necked garter snakes. The Eastern one grows up to 20 inches long, while the Western sub-species can reach 42 inches in length for adults. The latter is also a water snake, while the former prefers being on land. 

5. Checkered Garter Snake

Have you seen the checkered garter snakes? They are subtly beautiful and are among the most common types of garter snakes.

These creatures generally have dark skin and evenly distributed patterns throughout their bodies. If you want to see many of them, visit Oklahoma, Kansas, or Mexico. 

Unlike most garter snakes with stripes as their main patterns, the checkered ones have light and dark markings and a bright-colored vertebral stripe. The checkered garter snake also has a dark blotch on the neck. A typical adult is between 18-24 inches long.

6. Blue-striped Garter Snake

These beautiful snakes usually have a brown or black base color throughout the body. You will only find them in Northwest Florida. This species’ most outstanding physical characteristic is the blue stripes on the side, making the snake easy to spot. 

These snakes have evolved, making the current species quite distinct from the original ones with no blue stripes. The blue-striped garter snakes grow to a typical length of about 18-26 inches in length.

7. San Francisco Garter Snake

San Francisco garter snakes are the most eye-catching garter species on the planet. Their color combination, patterns, and features are beyond impressive.

This garter snake has a unique pattern throughout the body, achieved by harmoniously alternating orange-red, blue and black colors.

The head is mainly orange-red, while the chin region is blue. These ones look similar to the red-sided ones but with more vibrant colors. San Francisco garter snakes also grow longer than regular snakes, with some adults reaching 36 inches. 

8. Plains Garter Snake

These types of garter snakes are closely related to the black-necked species. They are mostly found in Southern Canada and the Central regions of the United States.

You can easily identify them by the bold golden-yellow or cream vertebral stripe. Plain garter snakes usually have solid-black sides with grey bases, but some rare types have red ones.

They also have characteristic yellow spots on their heads and greenish-yellow stripes on the lower parts of each side. Adult snakes are about 36 inches long.

9. Texas Garter Snake

Most wild animals use their physical features as a safety mechanism. The Texas garter snakes are no exception; they have distinct spots for protection from predators; how cool! This snake has a black or dark olive base color and a vertebral stripe, usually pale-orange. 

Texas garter snakes have beautiful longitudinal stripes on the sides and backs, plus alternating patterns of orange, white, and black colors. The various hues blend to create a seamless color pattern. This species grows up to a length of between 15-28 inches. 

10. Chicago Garter Snake

You’ll find Chicago garter snakes in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Their base colors are grey, tan, and black, but their longitudinal stripes are either yellow or cream.

The Chicago garter snake is a sub-species of the common garter snake, so you’ll notice several common features too. 

However, this snake type has a subtle beauty characterized by distinct vertical black bars on the neck. Also, they share a location range with the Eastern garter snake, so you’ll most likely see both species around the same time. Adult Chicago garter snakes are approximately 39 inches long.


Garter snakes are very interesting creatures. They are not only beautiful, but they’re also fascinating. Also, most people don’t realize that these reptiles are actually venomous, though not as dangerous as other wild snakes.

Also, different types of garter snakes have distinct characteristics, so it’s easy to identify them. In case you didn’t know, garter snakes are among the most popular pets, especially among children.

You can also have them in your garden to eliminate troublesome pests like rodents. But remember to acquire them legally!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like