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5 Types of Garter Snakes in Ohio (Pictures)

Ohio is home to many different types of wildlife, but here we are going to learn about a certain type of snake that calls this state home. Garter snakes may not look like much, but they’re among the animal kingdom’s most adaptable and efficient predators. In this article, we’ll explore the world of garter snakes in Ohio, including the different species as well as their behaviors and habitats in the state.

Collage photo garter snakes in Ohio

What are the garter snakes in Ohio?

At least 5 different species of garter snakes can be found in Ohio. These include the eastern garter snake, butler’s garter snake, eastern ribbon snake, shorthead garter snake, and plains garter snake. 

These snakes can be brown, almost black, or olive in color, and they have three yellow stripes that run the length of their bodies. However, the color of their stripes may differ from one species to another.

Some of these slender creatures are capable of reaching lengths of up to three to four feet, while others can only grow to a maximum of one and a half feet.  Wetland habitats, such as marshes, swamps, and ponds, are common places to find these creatures because they enjoy being close to water.

5 Garter snakes in Ohio

1. 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

One of the subspecies of the common garter snake, the Eastern Garter Snake is the most common type of garter snake found in the state of Ohio. This species of snake is native to eastern North America and can be found in a wide variety of environments, such as wet woodlands and grasslands, as well as along the shores of ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers.

They have the typical garter snake coloration, which is a dark body with yellowish stripes on the back and sides. However, these stripes can be green, brown, or blue as well. In the western basin of Lake Erie, as many as fifty percent of the population may be melanistic (completely black).

2. 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

There is a chance of encountering a butler’s garter snake in the states of Ohio and Indiana, as well as in the eastern portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and in the province of Ontario in Canada. They’re a type of species that can be found across the majority of glaciated Ohio, but they can only be found in isolated colonies.

You can also find these creatures in parks and in agricultural fields that have been abandoned. Unlike other species of garter snakes, butler’s garters are less likely to try to escape when handled and more likely to thrash around in place. This slender animal’s diet consists primarily of earthworms and leeches.

3. Plains garter snake

Plains garter snake
Plains garter snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis radix 

The plains garter snake is an example of a non-venomous species of snake that you can find in the state of Ohio. However, you’ll only find these animals in Wyandot County, specifically in the region surrounding the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area.

The plains garter snake is widely regarded as one of the cold-tolerant species of snakes and can be observed sunbathing in the warmth of the sun during the sunny winter months. They have the same coloring as other garter snakes, but theirs is much more vibrant than the coloring of the other species found in Ohio.

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4. Eastern ribbon snake

Eastern ribbon snake
Eastern Ribbon snake | Photo by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus sauritus

Ribbon snakes are a type of garter snake, and the eastern ribbon snake is one of four subspecies of the ribbon snake that lives in the southeastern United States, including states like Ohio. They’re semi-aquatic animals, so you can find them near small lakes, ponds, swamps, wet prairies and meadows, and occasionally moist wood, but they’re more at home on the shore than they’re in the water.

Compared to other garter snakes, ribbon snakes are primarily aquatic predators, feeding on various aquatic animals, including small fish, tadpoles, salamanders, frogs, and toads. This particular species of garter snake is also significantly more slender than other garter snakes, and it has a longer tail, which typically accounts for one-third of its total length.

5. Shorthead garter snake

Shorthead garter snake
Shorthead garter snake | image by bobistraveling via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis brachystoma

The species of garter snake known as the shorthead garter snake can be found in the state of Ohio, but it’s significantly less common than other species. They have only been discovered in isolated populations in and around Youngstown, and more specifically in abandoned fields and meadows that are located close to marshes and lakes.

The Shorthead garter snake is a small reptile that can grow to a maximum length of approximately 18 inches. Because of this, they’re regarded as the smallest garter snake in Ohio. Their heads are also quite small, to the point where it gives the impression that they have no necks. This is because their heads are the same width as the rest of their bodies.