There are four separate varieties of snakes that inhabit Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. There are three varieties of Garter snake: the Northwestern, the Western Terrestrial, and the Common Garter snake. In addition there is the rarer Sharp-tailed Snake. None of these snakes pose any threat to humans.
The Sharp-tailed Snake
The Sharp-tailed Snake is named for it's distinguishing feature of a sharp scale on the top of its tale. It is the smallest variety of snake on Vancouver Island, averaging 12 inches in length but reaching up to 19 inches in length. It is reddish-brown or grey. The snake lays its eggs in the summer and the eggs hatch in the fall. The snake is most active during the rainy months but tends to seek shelter under rocks or other ground cover.
The Northwestern Garter Snake
The Northwestern Garter Snake can reach up to 38 inches long but averages 12-24 inches. It has a small head and comes in a variety of color patterns. It is usually characterized by a wide dorsal stripe as well as stripes on the lower sides, but these stripes may be dull or absent in some individual snakes. They are most active during the daytime in the summer. They give birth to live young between July and September.
The Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
The Western Terrestrial Garter Snake can grow up to 43 inches and is characterized by three light yellow or cream stripes, one dorsal and two lateral, with black spots dotting the dorsal stripe. The base color is usually olive or greenish gray. They are often found by water but can be found in a range of habitats. Like the Northwestern Garter Snake they mate in Spring and give birth to live young between July and September.
The Common Garter Snake
The Common Garter Snake averages 18 to 26 inches but can grow up to 48 inches. It is most frequently dark brown or black with a pattern of bright yellow stripes, including one narrow dorsal stripe, and two wider lateral stripes. The pattern can vary and the color of the stripes may also be tan or orange. They are active Spring through Fall and give birth to live young between July and October. They are often found swimming.
- Comox Valley Naturalists Society: Spying a Snake
- CaliforniaHerps.com: Thamnophis ordinoides - Northwestern Gartersnake
- Idaho State University Museum of Natural History: Thamnophis elegans (Western Terrestrial Garter Snake)
- UMass Amherst: Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation: Common Garter Snake
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web: Contia tenuis sharp-tailed snake
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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