Friday, July 27, 2007

Buster the Garter Snake

Summer is critter time at the cabin. One resident that has been showing himself lately is Buster the garter snake. He first appeared on a warm sunny afternoon in May. Then, when the weather turned cool and rainy, he disappeared again. I've seen him go in and out of our woodpile, but I've also seen him on shore. Either place, I am sure he decided to go back to his cozy den to wait for better weather.

Buster likes to sun himself on our transition float or my garden float. He is so "tame" you can walk within a few feet, at least when he is lulled by the warm sun. Garter snakes are common non-venomous snakes in Canada and the U.S. They have yellow stripes on a brown body and grow to 1.5 metres (3.5 ft) in length.

Garter snakes semi-aquatic. Just the other day we were going out in our tin boat and there was Buster, swimming across our front "water" yard. His body undulated from side to side, propelling him gracefully through the water with his head held high.

Garter snakes eat frogs, worms, fish, small birds and rodents. One day last summer we saw Buster stalk and catch a medium sized frog. He caught it by the leg and held on until the frog tired. This took an agonizingly long period of time. Once the frog stopped struggling, Buster opened his flexible jaws wide and started to swallow it whole. It didn't seem possible, but after about an hour it was done. Garter snakes have to be careful of large fish, bull frogs, hawks, skunks, foxes and John's dog Bro or they may become dinner rather than the diner. Buster is a welcome addition to our float cabin life. He helps us keep mice under control and gives us lots of viewing pleasure. -- Margy


  1. Anonymous1:46 PM

    about what time of year do the garter snakes go into hibernation and when do they come out?

  2. Here is a website that has more information on garter snakes.

    It says they start to hibernate in late October and come back out in March or early April. I wasn't at the cabin in April, but we did see our garter snake in May. Another website said that garter snakes can come out from their communal hibernaculum during the day in early spring, but return to it during the cool nights for shared warmth. This website had more information about hiberation.

    Hope that helps. -- Margy

  3. Anonymous11:18 AM

    Hi umm when d o garter snakes come out is like 46 degress good for tempeture there is snow on the ground in some spots im just wondering if i should go looking for a garter snake

  4. Anonymous11:22 AM

    im jist wondering if winter is god for garter snakes to come out i know winter is when they hibrenate but its been about 45 degress ot one day it was 65 too should i be looking for one yet?

  5. I am not sure about your area. Where we live we won't see them until usually April or May. That's when the days get longer and the sun gets warmer. There are also more food sources available. If you look at the previous comment there is a link to a website with more expert information. We love watching our garter snake, even though once in a while he gives you a start lying right in the walkway.


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy