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The Garter snake is a Colubrid snake genus (Thamnophis) common across North America, ranging from Alaska and Canada to Central America. It is the single most widely distributed genus of reptile in North America. The garter snake is also the Massachusetts state reptile.

There is no real consensus on the classification of species of Thamnophis. Disagreement among taxonomists and sources, such as field guides, over whether two types of snakes are separate species or subspecies of the same species is common. They are also closely related to the snakes of the genus Nerodia, and some species have been moved back and forth between genera.

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Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Subfamily: Naticinae
  • Genus: Thamnophis
    (Fitzinger, 1843)

Venomous?

Garters were long thought to be nonvenomous, but recent discoveries have revealed that they do in fact produce a mild neurotoxic venom. Garter snakes cannot kill humans with the small amounts of venom they produce, which is comparatively mild, and they also lack an effective means of delivery.

Conservation

Despite the decline in their population from collection as pets (especially in the more northerly regions in which large groups are collected at hibernation), pollution of aquatic areas, and introduction of bullfrogs as prey , this is still a very commonly found snake. The garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) however, is an endangered subspecies and has been on the endangered list since 1969. Predation by crawfish has also been responsible for the decline of the narrow head garter snake .

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