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3 Garter Snakes in Michigan (Pictures & Facts)

The garter snake is native to much of North America, including the state of Michigan, and is one of the most common types of snakes found there. These serpents are well-known for their recognizable stripes as well as their capacity to adapt to a diverse range of habitats, including grasslands, forests, wetlands, and suburban areas. Each garter snake in Michigan has their own unique traits and lives in different parts of the state.

The article provides a list of the garter snakes found in the state, along with some useful background information on them.

Collage photo garter snakes in Michigan

What are the garter snakes in Michigan?

The eastern garter snake, the northern ribbon snake, and the butler’s garter snake are the three species of garter snakes found in Michigan. Even though every one of these species possesses some features and qualities that are unique to itself, they all have quite a few things in common.

Garter snake diet

When living in the wild, garter snakes maintain a varied diet so that they can obtain all of the necessary nutrients. Their primary source of food comes from the amphibians that inhabit the environments in which they live. However, these animals have been known to consume fish, leeches, slugs, lizards, and smaller snakes on occasion as well. 

If nothing else is available, they’ll consume anything that they can fit in their mouths. Depending on their size, some garter snakes have also been seen eating small birds and rodents.

Garter snake habitat

The garter snake is highly adaptable and can make a home for itself in nearly any environment. However, they would also prefer to live in habitats that are close to sources of water. This can be in the form of streams, ponds, or marshy areas; it can also be in the form of gardens and parks that are close to bodies of water. 

Mainly because garter snakes are opportunistic feeders that enjoy eating a variety of aquatic organisms, including small fish, tadpoles, and frogs. These snakes enjoy the cool, moist environment that you can find around water sources, and they also find plenty of places to hide and hunt.

3 Garter snake species in Michigan

1. Butler’s garter snake

Butler’s garter snake
Butler’s garter snake | image by Benny Mazur via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Thamnophis butleri

You may come across the Butler’s garter snake while you are in the state of Michigan, specifically in the middle of the Southwest to the Southeast part of the state. This species is named after the ornithologist, Amos Butler.

The length of a typical Butler’s garter snake ranges from 15 to 28 inches, and their bodies are stocky. They have a dark body, which can be either black or olive, and stripes that are either yellow or cream in color. When compared to the eastern garter snake, you might also notice two rows of dark or black spots running down their back between the central stripe and the two side stripes. 

They’re frequently observed in open or semi-open wetland environments, such as wet meadows and prairies, as well as marshy edges along lakes. In order to survive the harsh conditions of winter, these animals will burrow underground into the burrows of crayfish or into other underground sites.

You may also like:  Are There Water Snakes in New Mexico? 

2. Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern garter snake
Eastern garter snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

You can find three different kinds of garter snakes in the state of Michigan, and one of those is the Eastern Garter Snake. It’s a subspecies of the common garter snake and the only subspecies found there. It’s not difficult to spot an eastern garter snake in Michigan. 

They’re one of the most commonly encountered animals in the state and can be found in a variety of habitats in close proximity to water, such as agricultural areas, along fence lines and stone walls, in gardens and urban lots, and even in abandoned buildings.

This animal can grow to be between 18 and 26 inches long, and females are usually much larger than males. They’re known for having the typical garter snake coloration, which consists of a dark body with one yellowish stripe on the back and each side, but you’ll also see some of them having stripes in green, brown, or blue coloration on their bodies as well. 

3. Northern ribbon snake

Northern ribbon snake
Northern ribbon snake | image by Jon Fife via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis

The Northern ribbon snake is a small, relatively thin snake with a long tail about a third of its body.  This species of ribbon snake can grow to be anywhere between 18 and 34 inches long, and the stripes on their bodies can be either yellowish or greenish. 

It’s possible to find it in Michigan, more specifically in marshes or along the edges of lakes, ponds, and streams across the majority of the state. Most of their diet consists of fish and amphibians, and they’re excellent swimmers.

The appearance of these animals can make it challenging to identify them because they resemble several other species of garter snakes. However, one way to tell them apart is by looking at their longer tails and thinner bodies.

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About Louise Robles

Louise writes about a wide variety of topics including wildlife, animals, and nature. She's developed a growing interest in animal biology and categorization due to her fascination with how they interact with one another and with their surroundings.