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A Civil Serpent

Spring is the perfect time to find PEI’s amphibians and reptiles, and I was happy to cross paths with this beautiful Maritime Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis pallidula).

Photo 1: A Maritime Garter Snake. Note the light stripes, and the interlocking, keeled scales.

Garters are venomous snakes, but so small that they pose no threat to humans. Unlike our other two snakes – Northern Red-Bellied (Storeria occipitomaculata) and Eastern Smooth Green (Opheodrys vernalis) – Garters are a bit ornery and *will* try to bite you if handled. Personally, I think that’s fair. They’re especially visible (and slightly more docile) this time of year as they seek out rocks and exposed sunny spots to warm up their cold-blooded bodies during the day.

Photo 2: Garter Snakes are well camouflaged.

In Photo 1, you can see the distinctive, pale stripes that identify this as a Maritime Garter Snake, as well as those fantastic interlocking scales each with a keel (ridge) down the middle. Photo 2 shows how well camouflaged they are. Though traditionally persecuted, snakes are beneficial animals that deserve our admiration, protection, and respect. They are also among my favourite parts of PEI untamed!

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