What Do Garter Snakes Eat? The Answer Will Surprise You

Spread the love

Have you ever seen snakes in your garden? If so, that must be garter snakes. They are the most common snakes throughout North and Central America. Moreover, garter snakes are safe for humans because they are non-poisonous. Now, the question would be; what do garter snakes eat?

Garter snakes eat various animals in your garden and keep them away from your yards. They love to eat mice, twits, earthworms, etc. Moreover, these tiny snakes greatly benefit the environment by reducing the number of rodents and insects.

Do you want to know more about the heating habits of garter snakes? If so, read the below guidelines to know everything about it.

What Exactly Is a Garter Snake?

Different types of garter snakes are present throughout America. They are also known as garden snakes and are most commonly found in gardens or yards. Since they are highly adaptable reptiles, they can survive in the worst cold and warm weather. Additionally, garter snakes are non-poisonous and are less harmful to humans.

They have a maximum lifespan of two years in the wild and 20 years in captivity. According to the Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology journal, garter snakes recreate their social settings based on their needs.

Furthermore, because of their vision and smell, garter snakes can locate their prey and ambush them. Then, after immobilizing the animal with their saliva through biting, they engulf it whole.

What’s the Appearance of a Garter Snake?

Depending on their species, garter snakes come in different colors and patterns. However, various snakes are distinguished by three stripes that run down the backs and sides of their bodies. Although these stripes are commonly yellow or green, their color might change depending on the species.

Additionally, some garter snakes contain additional color patches in the spaces between the stripes, while others hardly have any discernible bands. Garter snakes only reach lengths of 23 to 30 inches in different species. Some species, however, have been documented to grow as long as five feet.

Common Pests that Garter Snakes Eat on Dry Land

Although garter snakes eat various insects, here is the list of the most common animals.



There are 40,000 species of snails present worldwide. Snails can live both in water and on land. On land, they used to live in gardens. They are gastropods and belong to invertebrates. There are different types of snails, some are aquatic and some are terrestrial.

Moreover, snails are feeble to many other wild creatures since they lack a skeletal system and a backbone. As a result, they utilized their shell as a defensive strategy.  If you plant salad greens, snails can particularly harm your garden. Garden snakes will solve the issue for you by eating them.



Mice are one of the most common household rodents. These creepy pests create a nuisance and may contaminate your food. Garden snakes are the best way to kill them because they love to eat mice and rats. You can differentiate mice from rats by their size. They have a small body of 12cm in length.

Furthermore, You can recognize them for their distinctive features, including their pointed nose, small, rounded ears, body-length scaly tails, and high breeding rates.  Although some mice occasionally feed during the day, some spend most of their time at night.



Earthworms are the most common garden pests. They are naturally occurring, helpful soil inhabitants. Since they lack lungs, they breathe through their skin. They don’t have eyes either, so they perceive light and touch through receptors in their skin.

These worms love to live underground and burrow to build complex networks. Additionally, they create holes and small channels to aerate the soil and enhance drainage.

In addition to that, they transform dead and decaying organic materials into rich humus soil, promoting plant growth. Although earthworms are good for soil fertility, baby garden snakes eat them to fulfill their quest.



Slugs are a type of mollusk. They live in moist areas like plant debris, rock, weeds, and logs. Additionally, they are found in cold, wet, shaded environments from spring to autumn. Additionally, slugs have no legs and a squishy, slimy body. They are typically brownish or greyish.

Slugs consume the leaves of numerous plants, ripening fruits and vegetables, and decomposing plant waste. They create slime to move in your garden. A dried slime trail in your yard indicates the presence of slugs. Since garden snakes live in gardens, they can eat slugs and remove them from your yards.



Bird is another common animal of dry land. They belong to vertebrates and have wings for lifting. There are different types of birds, including songbirds, water birds, sea birds, and birds of prey. The natural system cannot function without birds. Many plants, especially native species, depend on them for pollination and seed dispersion.

Moreover, they also feed on various insects to balance the ecosystem. Although they don’t harm humans, they may damage your crops by cutting or chewing your plants. You can protect your crops from birds with the help of garter snakes because they love to feed on birds.



Newts are salamanders that are commonly found in Asia, Africa, North America, and Europe. They look similar to frogs and lizards. Some varieties of newts have vibrant color combinations, including yellow, orange, and others. They have rough skin like frogs and tails like lizards.

All newts are deadly and have poisonous skin or glands that emit poison when threatened. Moreover, they live both in water and on land. For swimming, it possesses a paddle-shaped tail and webbed feet. This species has a lifespan of two to fifteen years. Since garter snakes eat amphibians, newts may be their favorite food.



Almost 400,000 lizards are present in the United Kingdom. They can range in length from 2cm to 3 meters. Several lizards can intentionally cut off their tails to frighten off potential predators, and then regrow them afterward. Moreover, they are ectothermic and can change their body temperature according to the circumstances.

Many species of lizards can alter their color to hide from predators or to fit in with their surroundings to capture their prey. Additionally, as lizards are ugly pests, you may not be happy to see them in your home or property. Therefore, you can use garter snakes to remove or kill them.



Grasshoppers are the most common pests in gardens and fields. They are usually ground-dwelling insects with strong hind legs that enable them to leap vehemently in the direction of danger. In addition to that, they occupy areas with abundant food sources, like fields and long grasses.

Grasshoppers are plant-eating insects, and some species can occasionally be a major problem in pastures, vegetables, and grains. Therefore, they can cause severe damage to your cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Garter snakes are fond of eating grasshoppers because they serve as snacks.

Common Pests that Garter Snakes Eat Near the Water

Below is the list of the most common prey of garter snakes near the water.

Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders

Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders

Frogs, toads, and salamanders are amphibians. These pests are usually found near water. They spent the 1st half of their lives in water and remaining on land. Frogs are shiny and smooth, whereas toads have warty-looking skin that is covered in tiny lumps and bumps. On the other hand, salamanders are similar to lizards and have skinny bodies with short legs and long tails.

Moreover, they are cold-blooded animals and can change their body temperature according to the environment. Although frogs, toads, and salamanders eat small insects, like spiders, beetles, and worms, you can use garter snakes to kill them.



Fish is the most prevalent animal present in water. They are vertebrates but each species of fish has different features. The majority of bodies of water are rich in fish. They can be found in almost every aquatic environment, from the deepest oceans to high mountain rivers.

Around the world, fish are a valuable resource for people, particularly as food. Garden snakes may be devouring the little fish in your pond if you have one in your landscaping. Although, most homeowners don’t encourage it.

Small Snakes

Small Snakes

You may wonder after reading the name of the snake, but no need to astonish now because adult garter snakes eat or kill small snakes of different species to fulfill their quest. Barbados thread snakes are the smallest snakes having a maximum length of 10.4 cm and a weight of 0.6 grams. Moreover, rosy boas, corn snakes, milk snakes, and western hognose are also the smallest pet snakes.

Snakes that eat these small snakes are called Ophiophagic snakes. Many different types of snakes often consume snakes. King snakes, king cobras, racer snakes, and eastern indigo snakes are some of these snakes.



Leech is closely related to earthworms. There are almost 650 species of leech that exist on Earth. While certain species of leeches can be found on land or in the sea, most are found in freshwater settings. They love to live in humid areas so you may find them near ponds.

Aquatic leeches can consume snails, bug larvae, and worms in addition to the blood of fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals. However, true land leech consumes only mammals’ blood. Since they may harm you by sucking your blood, you can kill them using garter snakes.

What Do Garter Snakes Eat in Captivity?

Garter snakes are the most ordinary pets in the U.S. If you want to keep them as pets, you must nourish them with a healthy diet. For this purpose, mice are the best option because they give them the whole nutrients.

Moreover, garter snakes can also eat frogs in captivity, but you should avoid them because they are hard to locate. However, you can feed your pet snakes with fish, slugs, and earthworms besides their limited nutrient contents.

Above all, if you only feed your Garter snakes on earthworms, you need to add additive calcium because they’re deficient in calcium.

Common Predators of Garter Snakes

Although garter snakes are the predators of various animals, some prey on them. Here is the list of their most common predators.



Foxes are similar to small and medium-sized dogs with pointed noses, long ears, and tails. Except for Antarctica, all continents are home to foxes. The red fox, which has roughly 47 recognized subspecies, is the most prevalent species of fox. Additionally, fur color, length, and density vary between fox species.

As foxes are omnivores, they can eat anything available to them from vegetables to meat, included in this are smaller creatures like rats, rabbits, lizards, snakes, and amphibians. Therefore, foxes may prey on garter snakes.



Bear is another common predator of garter and other snakes. Although most species of bear don’t eat snakes, some consume garter snakes to maintain their food chain. They are carnivores and are present in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

Additionally, modern bears typically have massive bodies with sturdy legs, long noses, small,                                                                                                                                                     rounded ears, shaggy fur, short tails, and plantigrade feet in which the surface of the foot touches the ground. Although they feed mostly on bamboo, some have a varied diet and can consume snakes too.



Raccoons are spherical, fluffy animals with bushy tails and a black fur mask covering their eyes. Despite having a charming, cuddly appearance, these animals may be rather threatening when confronted. Since they are incredibly versatile, they can live in various climatic conditions and environments.

Raccoons are omnivores and eat both plants and meat. Although raccoons don’t commonly eat snakes, they consume them when they have nothing to eat. Additionally, raccoons may devour snake eggs and take their nests to use as a place to sleep in concealment.



Bald eagles most frequently eat garter and other snakes. They have heavy bodies with large heads. Bald eagles often forage for food by bothering other birds or consuming carrion or trash. You can see them near lakes, rivers, marshes, and coats.

They can capture and devour snakes, even though it is not their preferred food. Although fish makes up their diet, eagles have also been known to consume snakes, crabs, small animals like rodents, and birds.

Final Verdict

Garter snakes are helpful and harmless pests of rodents and various insects. But resist the urge to take it. If you become frightened, it might bite you. In the wild, garter snakes eat a variety of creatures, including earthworms, frogs, slugs, and even baby snakes. While in captivity, they can eat anything available to them.

While it’s generally a good idea to imitate your snake’s diet in captivity, doing so with garter snakes is challenging and may be hazardous because their primary food of amphibians may include dangerous parasites. Therefore, you should be careful while feeding your pet garter snakes.


Garter snakes eat different insects and animals to fulfill their nutritional requirements. The baby garter snakes are fed every other day, allowing them to eat a variety of items, such as feeder guppies, minnows, earthworms, and fragments of fish fillet. Contrarily, adult garter snakes eat small rodents like rats or mice once a week.

No, garter snakes don’t eat dirt because it doesn’t contain dirt. While hunting for earthworms and other small prey, you might watch the juvenile garter snakes sliding through sand, dirt, and fallen leaves.
If you see any garter snakes in your yard and want to remove them, wipe the area around them. Remove garbage, debris, fallen leaves, and bushes from your garden. Moreover, this snake loves to stay away from people, so if there is nothing to hide, it will move on.

Yes, garter snakes can bite. Although they don’t have fangs and are non-poisonous, they have teeth in their mouth and may bite. If a garter snake accidentally bites, you may get infected, if you don’t clean the affected area properly. Furthermore,  while the garter snake infection is uncommon, some people have an allergy to their saliva.

As garter snakes are carnivores, they love to eat meat. Therefore, their bodies can’t digest vegetables. Additionally, despite what well-intentioned pet store employees tell you, insects are not edible to snakes. In reality, many snake pet owners assert that garter snakes hardly ever consume insects.

Garter snakes use their lightning-fast reflexes to capture their prey. Their keen sense of smell and vision enables them to track down and hunt their prey without instantly drawing the attention of the prey animal to themselves. 
Moreover, they use their tongue to get the scent of their prey and send the signals to their organs. As a result, their organs guide them to locate nearby prey. Once they find their prey, garter snakes wait for the best moment to swallow them.

Even though poisonous snakes can be dangerous in some regions, garden snakes like garter snakes can be a welcome inclusion to property. These snakes are gardeners’ friends because they are harmless and kill the pests that damage the crops.

Garter snakes like areas that provide shelter to them. Consequently, there may be the likelihood of a garter snake infestation if your yard has heaps of garbage like boulders, logs, or thick vegetation.

Since garter snakes are natural pests, they consume grasshoppers, ants, newts, earthworms, snails, slugs, and occasionally rodents as food. Many of the animals that garter snakes eat are present in your gardens. Thus, garter snakes protect your garden by eating these pests.

You can control garter snakes by sealing the potential gaps or cracks in your walls and windows. Removing their food sources, like mice and rats, may also keep them away. Moreover, as garter snakes like humid areas, you should prevent landscaping to control them.

They begin growing at 6-8 inches long. Adult garter snakes only reach a maximum length of 2-3 feet and have a width of just a few inches.

Garter snakes in the wild often only live for four to five years, but with proper care, they can live up to ten years. While in captivity, their average lifespans range from 6 to 10 years, with 14 years being the longest known lifespan.


Skinner, M., Miller, N. Aggregation and social interaction in garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 74, 51 (2020).