The Eastern Garter Snake, 09 April 2014

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, the Eastern garter snake;
Flagler county, Florida (09 April 2014).

The Garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, is one of the most wide-ranging snake species on the North American continent. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the southern border to beyond the north, Garter snakes are remarkably adaptable organisms. There are currently a dozen or so recognized subspecies of Garter snakes — by some measures, at least. In Florida, we have the nominate subspecies: Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, known regionally and commonly as the Eastern garter snake.

In east and northeast Florida, especially within the coastal counties, our Eastern garter snakes often carry a bluish-green tone to their patterning. Eastern garters further north and even to the south don’t necessarily have such a bluish-green shine to their coat, but I have seen this design elsewhere from time to time. It’s simply more common here, it seems. This provides an exceptional example of “Ordinary but Extraordinary.” Seriously, as common as garters may be, I’m always thrilled to see a wild one in Florida. You’d be hard pressed to find a more attractive snake in Florida (at least if you like blue-green tones).

This individual was photographed in Flagler county, Florida. A splendid serpent.

NOTE: This is not the same as Thamnophis sirtalis similis, the so-called Blue-striped garter snake; that sub-species technically ranges along Florida’s west coast within the big bend region. Personally, I don’t put too much stock in subspecies divisions. With no natural barrier between subspecies, phenotypic drift, so to speak, is to be expected. In other words, I think of ours as Garter snakes with some awesome blue-green tones in their genetic makeup.

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