Bluestripe Garter Snake

 Bluestripe Garter Snake

©Darlene B. Durham 2014

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, Education Series, Snakes, Bluestripe Garter Snake

Bluestripe Garter Snake

 

We had our first sighting of a beautiful bluestripe garter snake in the ditch that runs alongside the golf cart trail.  He was in a muddy area as can been seen in the photos.  He had just eaten something but I wasn’t quick enough to tell what it was.

In my research, I found the spelling of this snake’s name varied.  The variations included bluestripe, blue-stripe, blue-striped, and blue striped garter snake.  I will use bluestripe as that seemed to be the most common spelling.

Garter snakes are often mistaken for ribbon snakes as they both have stripes which run the length of their body.  Two of the different characteristics between the snakes are that garter snakes are stockier and have a shorter tail than the ribbon snakes.  To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference unless comparing the two side by side.  But more noticeable characteristics, if you get close enough, are the ribbon snake does not have black markings on its lip scales and usually lacks the checkerboard background pattern found on garter snakes.

The bluestripe garter snake is non-venomous as is any native Florida snake species that has stripes that runs the length of its body.  Although the average adult snake will reach 20-26 inches long, the record length reported is 39.25 inches long.

The adult snake’s background color can be blue-black or olive-brown.  The background is a checkerboard pattern of small black spots.  The mid-dorsal stripe is blue.  Additional light blue stripes are found on each side of the snake’s body on the second and third dorsal scale rows above the belly.  Light tan flecking can frequently be found on each side between the mid-dorsal and lateral stripes. The snake’s underbelly is a whitish-blue color.  The upper lip scales have black markings.  It has keeled scales.  This means the scales are dull with no gloss.  Their pupils are round.

The bluestripe garter snake is terrestrial and is usually active during the day. Their preferred habitat includes pinelands, marshes, hardwood hammocks, prairies and cypress strands.  They can be found along canal banks and ditches.  They may also be seen in residential areas.  Their diet consists of frogs, small fishes, salamanders, and earthworms.

The bluestripe garter snake is viviparous meaning it gives birth to their young and do not lay eggs.  The young snakes’ appearances are similar to the adult.

The bluestripe garter snake is not found outside of Florida so we have a unique opportunity at TGO to admire this beautiful blue snake.   But admire them from a distance.  They can become aggressive if cornered and will emit a foul smelling musk if handled.

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, Education Series, Snakes, Bluestripe Garter Snake

Bluestripe Garter Snake

 

Click on the photos for a closer look at the details of the pattern of the bluestripe garter snake.

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, Education Series, Snakes, Bluestripe Garter Snake

Bluestripe Garter Snake

 

The photo above is a close up view of the bluestripe garter snake.  Notice the checkerboard pattern.

 

TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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