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A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California. Key to Identifying California Gartersnakes. Range Maps of California Gartersnakes.
San Francisco Gartersnake - Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia Cope, Click on a picture for a larger view. Common Gartersnakes, which include S. Gartersnakes, have an average of 7 upper labial scales, but sometimes they have 6, 8, or even 9, and rarely, as you can see above, one of the upper labial scales is split horizontally.
This aberration occurs on both sides of the head of the snake illustrated above from San Mateo County. This one was found dead after being run over by a vehicle on a road in Santa Cruz County. San Francisco Gartersnake Stuff.
Not Dangerous Non-poisonous - This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans. Gartersnakes have toxins in their saliva which can be deadly to their prey and their bite might produce an unpleasant reaction in humans, but they are not considered dangerous to humans.
Adults of this species measure 18 - 55 inches in length 46 - cmbut the average size is under 36 inches 91 cm.
A medium-sized snake with a head barely wider than the neck and keeled dorsal scales. The eyes are relatively large compared with other gartersnake species.
Some average scale counts: 7, occasionally 8, rarely 6 or 9, upper labial scales, often with black wedges. The rear pair of chin shields are longer than the front. Average of 19 scales at mid-body. A wide blue-green or greenish yellow dorsal stripe is bordered with black stripes.
Below the black stripe is a continuous red stripe, bordered below by another black stripe. Below that is a bluish or greenish yellow lateral stripe. There may also be a thin line of black below the lateral stripe on the edge of the belly. The underside is bluish-green. Occasionally, the red stripes may be marked with black, similar to T. The head is red.
Key to Identifying California Gartersnake Species. Primarily active during daylight. A good swimmer. The species T. Often escapes into water when threatened. When first handled, typical of gartersnakes, this snake often releases cloacal contents and musk, and strikes.
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Eats a wide variety of prey, including amphibians and their larvae the endangered California Red-legged Frog - Rana draytoniiis a main food sourcefish, birds, and their eggs, small mammals, reptiles, earthworms, slugs, and leeches. Toxic Newts This species is able to eat adult Pacific Newts genus Taricha which are deadly poisonous to most predators. An arms race between T.
Edmund D. Brodie III. Since California Newts Taricha torosa also contain tetrodotoxin in their skin, and since gartersnake species other than T. III Mating occurs in the spring and possibly the fall and young are born live, spring to fall. Utilizes a wide variety of habitats, preferring grasslands or wetlands near ponds, marshes and sloughs. May overwinter in upland areas away from water.
The species Thamnophis sirtalis - Common Gartersnake, has the largest distribution of any gartersnake, ranging from the east coast to the west coast and north into Canada, farther north than any other species of snake in North America.
Rossman et al show the elevation record for the species at 8, feet m. Stebbins shows it as 8, ft.
This subspecies occurs at much lower elevations along the coast and associated mountains. Burbrink, pers. This taxonomy is shown on the range map in the book, The Garter Snakes - Evolution and Ecology 1. Nevertheless, some authors either missed the restoration of this nomenclature or chose to ignore it, and their work still reflects Rossman and Boundy's nomenclature.
Thanks to Sean Barry for this clarification in a personal communication. Conservation Issues Conservation Status. Listed as endangered by the state and by the federal government.
The habitat of this snake has declined severely due to urban development and agricultural land use and altering of the waterways needed by this snake. These habitat changes have also reduced populations of one of this snake's main food sources, the California Red-legged Frog - Rana draytonii.
Some authorities believe that the remaining fragmented populations of this snake could be further threatened by overcollecting for the pet trade. San Francisco Gartersnakes are popular pets in Europe, where it is possible that there are more of these snakes than there are in the wild in California. Thamnophis sirtalis - Linnaeus, - Syst. Meaning of the Scientific Name.
Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, Samuel M. McGinnis and Robert C. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Houghton Mifflin Company, Behler, John L. Wayne King. Alfred A. Knopf, Powell, Robert.
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Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. The University Press of Kansas, Bartlett, R. University Press of Florida, Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co. Brown, Philip R. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Ernst, Carl H. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press,