Garter snakes are some of the most common snakes in North America, while they’re also the most harmless snakes to humans.
They aren’t venomous (although there’s some debate there) and they usually stay away from human habitats.
In this article, we’ll be learning about the four types of garter snakes in Kansas.
- Common Garter Snakes
- Plains Garter Snakes
- Checkered Garter Snakes
- Western Ribbon Snakes
Note: Snakes are ranked in no particular order.
1. Common Garter Snakes
Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis
These snakes are common across the entire North American continent and they’re easily recognizable because of the yellow stripes on their dark scales.
In Kansas, they’re somewhat rare in the western third of the state. They’re usually found in marshes and woodlands where they’re active throughout the day.
Common garter snakes feed on small frogs and earthworms. It’s formally believed that garter snakes aren’t venomous. However, it was recently discovered that their saliva is actually toxic.
These types of garter snakes in Kansas can’t cause any issues to people, though, and they don’t have fangs to deliver the venom with.
2. Plains Garter Snakes
Scientific name: Thamnophis radix
This species is similar to common garter snakes. However, the stripe on the back can be orange, almost red – not necessarily yellow.
Most sightings of these snakes have been reported in Central Kansas, while southeastern Kansas has very few reported sightings.
Unlike most other snakes, they’re very tolerant of the cold. These snakes will come out during the winter if the day is particularly warm.
3. Checkered Garter Snakes
Scientific name: Thamnophis marcianus
Distinctly different from the aforementioned garter snake species, checkered garters are dark in color and they have dark spots all over their body. They also have thin yellow stripes.
This snake is rarely reported, with only a few sightings in southern Kansas, where they usually stay close to water sources.
There, they feed on frogs and small fish, as well as earthworms. Interestingly, they’re popular as pets as they can be tamed very easily.
4. Western Ribbon Snake
Scientific name: Thamnophis proximus
Western ribbon snakes have a very long tail – usually about a third of their entire body length. Their body is usually brown or black with yellow bands.
These are common snakes in Kansas, reported across the entire state. Just like all garter snakes, they’re very important prey to predators, especially birds of prey.
Other predators include raccoons and foxes.
Garter snakes are important members of their respective environments – not only do they control the populations of smaller species, but they also serve as prey to larger predators.
These four species of garter snakes are common in other states too, while in Kansas, they can be found near water sources, often in shrubby areas.