Chinese ‘Year of the Snake’ is time to put spotlight on local species

Northwestern garter snake
The Northwestern garter snake reaches 2-feet long at maturity, lives on slugs and worms, and is harmless to humans. Photo: Wash. Natural Heritage Program

 With the Chinese lunar ‘Year of the Snake’ beginning this past weekend, let’s take a look at the smallest of our three garter snake species: the Northwestern garter (Thamnophis  ordinoides), one of 12 native snake species in Washington state.

Northwestern garter snakes are not rare. You can find them in open grassy areas, forest openings and edges of coniferous forests, frequently in city parks and suburban areas. They are also common near lakes, ponds and other bodies water. They reach about 2 feet at maturity and tend to be dark above with stripes of red and orange. The Northwestern garter snake lives mainly on slugs and earthworms … and it does not have a poisonous bite.

Of course, this particular year of the snake in the Chinese zodiac recognizes the water snake but we don’t have those in Evergreen State, according to the Washington Herp Atlas, an online atlas of amphibians and reptiles in the state. The atlas was produced by the Washington Natural Heritage Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

Learn more about snakes and other wildlife in Washington state

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