Garter snakes, commonly known as 'garden snakes', belong to the family Colubridae. They are commonly found in North America. They are also referred to as 'gardener snakes'. They, like all other snakes, are carnivorous. They are opportunistic feeders. Generally, they tend to eat whatever they can easily overpower. They are immune to the toxic skin secretions of toads and, therefore, can eat toads without any harm. Mostly, they catch live prey. However, they may eat eggs and carrion, especially if live prey is not easily available..
A typical menu for Garter Snakes would include:
- Small rodents like mice, rabbits,etc.
- Snails and slugs
- Frogs, tadpoles, and frog spawn
- Insects like ants
- Small reptiles like lizards
- Fish (when living close to water bodies)
- Eggs, nestlings and small birds
Garden snakes usually hunt in the early morning, late afternoon and early evening, when the temperature is warm. They find their prey using their good sense of smell. They use various hunting methods such as ambushing, craning and peering, in order to capture the prey. They immobilize their prey with their sharp teeth and quick reflexes. Their saliva may be slightly toxic to some of their smaller prey. These snakes swallow their food whole. If the prey is small, it is immediately swallowed alive. If the prey is large, the garden snake unhinges its jaws to ease swallowing. With this ability, the garden snake can swallow a wide variety of prey.
Owing to the low toxicity of their venom, garter snakes are usually harmless to humans. They, therefore, make good pets. However, venomous or not, it is never a good idea to keep reptiles as pets in households that have small children. Kids are seldom able to handle these creatures properly and, hence, run a high risk of getting nasty, painful bites.