COMMON GARTERSNAKE
Thamnophis sirtalis
(Linnaeus 1758)


thăm-nō-fĭs — sĭr-tāl-ŭs




An adult Common Gartersnake from Seward County. © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult Common Gartersnake from Lincoln County, Kansas. © Kevin Urbanek.
Common Gartersnake eating an American Bullfrog in Barton County, Kansas. © Ariel Snyder.
An adult Common Gartersnake from Pottawatomie County. Image © Jacob Basler.
A young adult Common Gartersnake from Meade County, Kansas. Image © John Tollefson.
An adult from Pratt County. Image © Ken Brunson.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
Adult from Meade County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult from Barton County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult Common Gartersnake from Seward County. © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult from Cherokee County, Kansas. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

Description:
Harmless. Keeled scales. Three yellow body stripes, those on each side of the body situated on second and third scale rows (counting from belly up); a pattern of black spots on a red background (parietalis type; 'red-sided' variant) between the stripes on the back. The belly is white, greenish or gray, with a row of small dark spots along edges. Young look like miniature adults. 
Specimens from the extreme southwestern portion of their range in Kansas (Meade and Seward counties; annectans type; 'Texas' variant) lack the red color between the dorsal and lateral stripes, are darker between the stripes, and have a red or orange dorsal stripe. Specimens from the Ozark Plateau of Cherokee County (sirtalis type; 'eastern' variant) have a muted pattern and color with an orange vertebral stripe and no lateral red markings.
Adults normally attain 410-710 mm (16-28 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 189179) from Reno County with TL of 1,130 mm (44½ inches) collected by George Ratzlaff on 5 March 1981; maximum length throughout range: 52 inches (Boundy, 1995); maximum weight for Kansas specimen: 410 grams (14½ ounces).


Distribution:
Common throughout the eastern two-thirds of Kansas. Makes its way into western Kansas along riparian zones.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 917 Total Records 
  • 753 Museum Vouchers 
  • 164 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (8); Anderson (17); Atchison (4); Barber (18); Barton (5); Bourbon (18); Brown (6); Butler (4); Chase (15); Chautauqua (5); Cherokee (23); Cheyenne (2); Clark (1); Clay (4); Cloud (3); Coffey (8); Comanche (6); Cowley (15); Crawford (30); Decatur (1); Dickinson (9); Doniphan (13); Douglas (164); Edwards (1); Elk (12); Ellis (18); Ellsworth (8); Franklin (30); Geary (6); Greenwood (5); Harper (10); Harvey (13); Jackson (9); Jefferson (13); Jewell (6); Johnson (30); Kingman (4); Kiowa (9); Labette (5); Leavenworth (25); Lincoln (3); Linn (27); Lyon (6); Marion (5); Marshall (6); McPherson (3); Meade (13); Miami (22); Mitchell (6); Montgomery (4); Morris (8); Nemaha (3); Neosho (11); Norton (1); Osage (13); Osborne (2); Ottawa (2); Phillips (2); Pottawatomie (14); Pratt (16); Rawlins (2); Reno (3); Republic (3); Rice (9); Riley (18); Rooks (5); Rush (2); Russell (26); Saline (10); Sedgwick (4); Seward (10); Shawnee (15); Sheridan (1); Smith (3); Stafford (5); Sumner (7); Trego (1); Unknown (5); Wabaunsee (5); Washington (5); Wilson (9); Woodson (7); Wyandotte (10);

Natural History:
Found in a wide variety of habitats, including marshes and wet meadows, margins of ponds, woodland and woodland edge, floodplains and cultivated fields; prefers areas with moderately moist vegetation. Active from March to November. Young born in late summer or fall; litters are large, varying from 4-85. Feeds chiefly on frogs and earthworms; occasionally eats toads, small mice, and other small snakes.
Rundquist (1999) reported assumed hybridization with a captive male Thamnophis radix, however, given that long-term sperm storage and multiple paternity have been reported in T. sirtalis, there are other interpretations not considered.


Occurrence Activity:
Remarks:
First reported in Kansas by Hallowell (1856). The earliest existing specimen is from 1867 (USNM 11934).

Bibliography:
1856 Hallowell, Edward Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska, presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Dr. Hammond, U.S.A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Doctor Hammond, U. S. A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1877 Mozley, Annie E List of Kansas snakes in the museum of the Kansas State Univeristy Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 6():34-35
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Recent additions to the list of Kansas reptiles and batrachians, with further notes on species previously reported. Bulletin of the Washburn College Laboratory of Natural History 1(3):100-103
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Second contribution to the herpetology of Kansas, with observations on the Kansas fauna. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 9():136-140
1900 Cope, Edward D. The crocodilians, lizards and snakes of North America. Pages 153-1270 in Report of the U. S. National Museum for the Year Ending June 30, 1898 , Washington, D. C. pp.
1904 Branson, Edwin B. Snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 2(13):353-430
1908 Ruthven, Alexander G. Variations and genetic relationships of the garter-snakes. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (61):1-201
1911 Hurter, Julius. Herpetology of Missouri. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 20(5):59-274
1925 Linsdale, Jean M. Land Vertebrates of a Limited Area in Eastern Kansas. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 312pp.
1927 Linsdale, Jean M. Amphibians and reptiles of Doniphan County, Kansas. Copeia 1927(164):75-81
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Taylor, Edward H. A revised checklist of the snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(5):53-62
1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1956 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. Second edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Miscellaneous Publication (9):1-356
1961 Fitch, Henry S. and T. Paul Maslin. Occurrence of the garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History 13(5):289-308
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1965 Fitch, Henry S. An ecological study of the garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis. University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History 15(10):493-504
1974 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (1):283 pp
1975 Rundquist, Eric M. First KHS field trip yields three county records. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (7):1-3
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1976 Lardie, Richard L. Brood of Texas garter snakes from Oklahoma. Bulletin of the Oklahoma Herpetological Society 1(3):38
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1978 Fitch, Henry S. and E. Raymond Hall. A 20year record of succession on reseeded fields of tallgrass prairie on the Rockefeller Experimental Tract. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Special Publication (4):1-15
1978 Li, Amy. Comparative reproduction studies of two colubrid snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis, Lampropeltis triangulum syspila): Advanced Biology Report. Lawrence High School, Lawrence, Kansas. 15pp.
1978 Li, Amy. Comparative reproduction studies of two colubrid snakes. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter 24():5-8
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1980 Fitch, Henry S. Thamnophis sirtalis. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (270):1-4
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. 2nd ed. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (8):
1982 Fitch, Henry S. Resources of a snake community in prairie-woodland habitat of northeastern Kansas. Pages 83-97 in Herpetological communities: A symposium of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Herpetologists League, August 1977.  Wildlife Research Reports 12. 239 pp. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C. pp.
1983 Overdeer, Danny C. Reptiles of the Mesquite Grasslands of Southwest Oklahoma. Dissertation. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. 34pp.
1989 Platt, Dwight R. Seasonal activity of snakes on a sand prairie. Pages 251-254 in Proceedings of the 11th North American Prairie Conference University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. pp.
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1992 Irwin, Kelly J. Geographic distribution: Thamnophis sirtalis annectens Herpetological Review 23(1):28
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
1994 Fitzgerald, Eve and Charles Nilon Classification of habitats for endangered and threatened species in Wyandotte County, Kansas Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 98pp.
1996 Miller, Larry L. Many amphibian and reptile species identified during KHS 1996 fall field trip to Wabaunsee County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):2-3
1996 Miller, Larry L. Third graders conduct amphibian and reptile field study. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):15
1996 Rossman, Douglas A., Neil B. Ford, and Ricahrd A. Seigel. The Garter Snakes: Evolution and Ecology. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. pp.
1999 Rundquist, Eric M. Garter snake hybridization. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (118):15
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Biogeographic analysis of the reptiles (Squamata) in Ellis County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (121):7-16
2001 Fitch, Henry S. Further study of the garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, in northeastern Kansas. University of Kansas Natural History Museum Scientific Papers (19):1-6
2001 Lardie, Richard L. The subspecific status of the Common Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, in western Oklahoma. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter 123():16-18
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):43084
2002 Miller, Larry L. Osage County herp count II. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Miller, Larry L. Shawnee County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Miller, Larry L. Sumner County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2002 fall field Trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):11-13
2003 Freeman, Craig C. A natural areas inventory of the Ft. Leavenworth Military Reservation, Leavenworth County, Kansas. II. Open-file Report No. 117. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas. 199pp.
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2011 McMartin, David C. U. S. Army 2011 Fort Leavenworth Herpetofaunal Survey: 23 April - 09 May 2011. Privately printed, Leavenworth, Kansas. 33pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
Account Last Updated:
7/21/2019 11:18:21 AM


Travis W. Taggart © 2019 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University