Giant garter snake

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Giant garter snake
Giant Garter Snake 1.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Thamnophis
Species: T. gigas
Binomial name
Thamnophis gigas
Fitch, 1940

The giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) is the largest species of garter snake. It is largely aquatic.


The giant garter snake is a large snake that is venomous but harmless to humans it possesses a very mild neurotoxic venom that helps subdue it's prey. A bite to a human will at most give a red itchy rash around the area of the bite. endemic to the Central Valley wetlands of California. The largest species of garter snakes, adults can range in size from 36 - 65 inches long (91 - 165 cm).

Fish and frogs form a large portion of the diet of the giant garter snake. It is active when water temperatures are at 68 °F (20 °C) or more, and is dormant underground when its aquatic habitat is below this temperature.

Giant garters are prey for various raptor birds and have evolved a fast diving behavior to avoid them.

Conservation biology[edit]

Destruction of wetland and habitat has been so widespread, this species is listed as endangered by the state and federal governments.[2] The giant garter snake populations of the San Joaquin Valley are now tiny disconnected remnants.[3] It has been extirpated from 98% of the former San Joaquin habitat.[4] The giant garter snake has fared better in the Sacramento Valley because rice cultivation and the associated canals have provided habitat,[2] when rice land is fallowed, populations seem to then move away from adjacent ditches.[5]

In addition to habitat loss and fragmentation, introduced predators such as the American bullfrog may also be suppressing recovery.[6] Attempts are underway to restore artificial wetlands to provide quality habitat for the giant garter snake, but it is too early to know if these efforts will significantly aid the recovery of this threatened species.


  1. ^ Hammerson, G.A. (2007). "Thamnophis gigas". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  2. ^ a b U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 1999. Draft Recovery Plan for the Giant Garter Snake. Portland, Oregon.
  3. ^ U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 1993. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Threatened Status for the Giant Garter Snake. Portland, Oregon.
  4. ^ Thamnophis gigas - Giant Gartersnake
  5. ^ Wylie, G.D., M.L. Casazza, and L.L. Martin. 2004. Monitoring giant garter snakes in the Natomas Basin: 2003 results. Progress report for The Natomas Basin Conservancy. USGS, BRD Dixon Field Station. 75pp. [Technical Report][1]
  6. ^ Wylie, G.D., M.L. Casazza, and M. Carpenter. 2003. Diet of bullfrogs in relation to predation on giant garter snakes at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. California Fish and Game 89(3): 139-145.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fitch, H.S. 1940. A Biogeographical Study of the Ordinoides Artenkreis of Garter Snakes (Genus Thamnophis). Univ. California Publ. Zool. 44 (1): 1-150, Figures 1-21, Plates 1-7.