Are Garter Snakes Poisonous? An Expert Guide

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Have you come across a garter snake and wondered – Are Garter Snakes Poisonous? Well, in the content of this article, you will find out everything that you need to know about Garter Snakes.

What Are Garter Snakes?

Garter snakes are a type of snake that is found throughout North America. They are often confused with other types of snakes, such as rattlesnakes and most other reptile that roam the land.

Are Garter Snakes Poisonous

These creatures have distinguishing features, including short, narrow snouts and round pupils.

They are generally timid creatures but can become aggressive when provoked. While they are not poisonous, they can release a foul-smelling musk as a defense mechanism.

Interestingly, garter snakes heavily rely on their vomeronasal organ to navigate and better understand their surroundings. They use this organ to sense pheromones in the air- which is why they often times come into contact with humans.

How do you identify a garter snake?

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Garter snakes can be identified by their long, slender body and the stripes that run along their length. They can range in color from green to brown to black, but most are some variations of green.

They typically grow to between 7 and 137.16 cm, although there have been reports of snakes as large as 190 cm long.

They are nonvenomous and generally considered to be harmless. They have stripes on their body that are either yellow, brown, or blue in color – one at the center and one on each side.

However, some garter snakes don’t have a stripe, so even if there are no stripes present on the snake’s body, it could still be a garter snake. Another identifying feature of a garter snake is the presence of three anal scales.

Furthermore, they have checkerboard patterns with scales that look rough and a raised ridge.

Lastly, they can be easily identified by their characteristic red tongue. While they are not poisonous, they can still deliver a nasty bite.

Are Garter Snakes Poisonous?

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Garter snakes are one of the most diverse reptiles, with over 25 different species. They are generally considered to be harmless, and many people keep them as pets. However, they can be mildly venomous and poisonous if bitten.

However, you should not eat a garter snake because they carry toxins in its body that would transfer to you. The toxin can cause severe digestive problems and even death.

Garter snakes are also known to spread salmonella, so it is important to keep your distance and not handle them if you are not vaccinated against the bacteria.

Poisonous vs. Venomous

Poisonous and venomous are two words that are often confused.

Animals and plants that have poison in them release their toxins when they are consumed or touched. This can cause harm to humans, pets, and any other animal.

On the other hand, venomous animals, on the other hand, inject their venom into other animals in order to kill or paralyze them.

In addition to this, there is a lot of confusion between poisonous and venomous snakes. The key difference is that venomous snakes actually inject their venom into their prey, while poisonous snakes contain toxins in their skin that can seep through a bite or scratch.

Dangerous snakes like rattlesnakes or copperheads are venomous, not poisonous.

Are Garter Snakes Venomous?

Garter snakes are non-venomous reptiles that inhabit North America and Europe.

Contrary to popular belief, they do possess a mild neurotoxic venom in their saliva, but it is not potent enough to cause any serious harm.

This venom is only dangerous to small prey and cannot seriously injure humans.

However, some people can have allergic reactions to their saliva, which can result in swelling, rash, or difficulty breathing. These reactions are generally rare, but it is always best to be cautious around snakes.

Do Garter Snakes Bite?

Garter snakes do bite; however, because they are non-venomous, their bite is not particularly painful.

They lack enough venom to present a threat to humans. In addition, garter snakes are mostly non-aggressive and typically only bite defensively when they are afraid or injured.

In most cases, if you’re bitten by a garter snake, you’ll barely feel it. The garter snake bite will cause some mild stinging, bruising, and swelling, but for the most part, you’ll be just fine. Just ensure you clean the wound and keep an eye on it for any signs of infection.

Are Garter Snakes Dangerous?

Garter snakes are not poisonous, but they can be dangerous. They have a fairly weak bite force, and their venom is not potent enough to kill or harm humans. However, they can still inflict a painful bite, so it is best to stay away from them if you see one.

In fact, these snakes are usually non-aggressive and will try to avoid people. However, they can bite if they feel threatened. The venom of a garter snake is not deadly, but it can cause pain and swelling.

On the other hand, they can even be helpful in gardens as they eat lots of harmful insect pests. However, it is always best to stay safe and give garter snakes a wide berth just in case.

What are the Benefits of Garter Snakes?

Garter snakes are often feared, but they actually have a number of benefits for humans. For example, they assist control the population of rodents and other pests, and they can be beneficial to farmers by eating insects that damage crops.

By doing so, they help by reducing their population and keeping the balance in check. In addition, they are non-venomous, so they generally pose no harm to humans or pets.

In addition to eating pests, garter snakes also provide food for larger animals. Birds of prey, large fish, and even other snakes rely on garter snakes as a food source.

This helps keep the populations of these predators also in check and ultimately benefits the environment.

How to Get Rid of Garter Snakes?

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There are a number of things you may do if you don’t like the idea of garden snakes in your yard or if there is an overpopulation of them.

  • Keep your home, garden, and yard free of debris and rubbish so that critters have nowhere to hide
  • Stack firewood and compost along the perimeter of your property.
  • Cut your lawn short and trim any shrubs, grass, or hedges you have.
  • Try using a snake repellent.
  • Keep your house secure by caulking any holes or cracks.


Garter snakes, thankfully, are not dangerous. As one of the most popular pets and found in abundance in the wild, it’s important to know this.

While garter snakes are not known for biting and emitting their musk, this does not mean that they are free of danger.

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.