garter snake

any of numerous harmless snakes of the genus Thamnophis, common in North and Central America, ranging in size from 14 to 30 in. (36 to 76 cm) and typically having three longitudinal stripes on the back.
[1760-70, Amer.]

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Any of more than a dozen species of snakes (genus Thamnophis, family Colubridae) with a striped pattern that resembles a garter: usually one or three longitudinal yellow or red stripes, with checkered blotches between.

Forms in which the stripes are obscure or lacking are called grass snakes. Found in gardens and vacant lots, garters are among the most common snakes from Canada to Central America. They are small (usually less than 24 in., or 60 cm, long) and harmless, though some will strike if provoked. They eat insects, earthworms, and amphibians.

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 any of more than a dozen species of nonvenomous snakes having a striped pattern suggesting a garter: typically, one or three longitudinal yellow to red stripes, between which are checkered blotches. Forms in which the stripes are obscure or lacking are often called grass snakes. Authorities differ as to the number of species, since garter snakes show only slight differences in their scales but considerable geographic differences in coloration. In many areas from Canada to Central America, they are the most common serpent. Western forms are associated with water more than eastern forms.

      Garter snakes are small to moderate in size—usually less than 100 cm (39 inches) long—and quite harmless. If handled they struggle and discharge a foul secretion from the anal gland; some will strike. Among the more defensive species is the common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), probably North America's most widely distributed reptile. The ribbon snake (T. sauritus), small and slender, is a strongly striped form. Garter snakes live chiefly on insects, earthworms, and amphibians; the ribbon snake is especially fond of frogs. They do not lay eggs but generally breed in early spring and give birth in late summer.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Garter snake — Snake Snake, n. [AS. snaca; akin to LG. snake, schnake, Icel. sn[=a]kr, sn?kr, Dan. snog, Sw. snok; of uncertain origin.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any species of the order Ophidia; an ophidian; a serpent, whether harmless or venomous. See {Ophidia}, and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Garter snake — Garter Gar ter, n. [OE. gartier, F. jarreti[ e]re, fr. OF. garet bend of the knee, F. jarret; akin to Sp. garra claw, Prov. garra leg. See {Garrote}.] 1. A band used to prevent a stocking from slipping down on the leg. [1913 Webster] 2. The… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • garter snake — garter .snake n a harmless American snake with lines of colour along its back …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • garter snake — garter ,snake noun count a small harmless snake that is found in North America and usually has three white STRIPES on it …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • garter snake — ☆ garter snake n. any of various small, harmless, striped colubrid snakes (genus Thamnophis) common in North America …   English World dictionary

  • Garter snake — Taxobox name = garter snake image size = 240px image caption = Coast garter snake Thamnophis elegans terrestris regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Reptilia ordo = Squamata subordo = Serpentes familia = Colubridae genus = Thamnophis… …   Wikipedia

  • garter snake — noun any of numerous nonvenomous longitudinally striped viviparous North American and Central American snakes (Freq. 2) • Syn: ↑grass snake • Hypernyms: ↑colubrid snake, ↑colubrid • Hyponyms: ↑common garter snake, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • garter snake — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms garter snake : singular garter snake plural garter snakes a small harmless snake that is found in North America and usually has three white stripes on it …   English dictionary

  • garter-snake — garˈter snake noun 1. In N America, any snake of the genus Thamnophis, non venomous, longitudinally striped 2. In S Africa applied to two venomous snakes, with black and red rings (see ↑Elaps) • • • Main Entry: ↑garter …   Useful english dictionary

  • garter snake — n. harmless and common snake with yellow or red stripes running lengthwise and found in North and Central America; poisonous burrowing African snake which is usually dark with lighter strips …   English contemporary dictionary

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