SNAKE SPECIES' DESCRIPTIONS (SNELL GROVE AREA)
1) Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
This snake, 1.5 to 4 feet long is one of the commonest and most easily identifiable of all Ontario’s snakes. It is characterized by three pale stripes running along the body length, against a darker background color. The background color is usually black, greenish brown, dark green or olive, while the stripes are white, yellow, greenish or pale gray in color. The dorsal scales are keeled and the anal-plate is single. The belly is white, yellow or a lighter shade of ground color with spots on the edges of most belly scales.
It prefers to live close to water and is common in marshes, woodlands, meadows, and other similar habitats, close to a body of water.
The garter snake constitutes a vital link in the food chain. It feeds on fish, amphibians, worms, and sometimes even young birds. It is also one of the very few predators that can make a meal of poisonous newts, toads and salamanders, which are unpalatable to other predators. The garter snake is immune to the toxic secretions that these amphibians secrete in defense, and by preying on them, it facilitates their entry into the food chain. The garter snake in turn is preyed upon by hawks, crows, raccoons, skunks, and milk snakes.
2) Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum)
This is a fairly large snake, 2-5 feet long. It has a light brown or gray background color with large, reddish brown, saddle-shaped, black-bordered blotches, running along its back, which turn into rings on the tail. There is a characteristic 'V' or 'Y' shaped mark of ground color on the head. A row of reddish spots alternates with the ‘saddles' on the flanks. The dorsal scales are smooth and the anal plate is single. The belly is white marked with black squares in a checkerboard fashion.
It is found in meadows, woodlands, rocky outcrops, and marshes.
It feeds on reptiles, amphibians, small birds, invertebrates, eggs, rodents, and also other snakes. It plays a very important role in controlling the population of mice and rats. It is preyed upon by foxes, coyotes, raccoons and skunks.
3) Northern Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
This small snake, 8-16 inches long is brown or grayish brown in color. The neck has three light spots, one on the back and one on either side. There is a small white spot below the eye on the upper lip. Running along the back are, four, dark, narrow stripes and one lighter, broader stripe. However, these stripes are not always distinct. The dorsal scales are keeled and the anal plate is divided. The belly is red, orange or pink with no spots.
Lives in moist deciduous and mixedwood forests, bogs and marshes. Hides under logs, rocks and stones.
It feeds on slugs, snails, insect larvae, and earthworms and occasionally on tadpoles. Plays an important part in controlling slugs and snails, which feed on the leaves of small plants and young trees and may act as pests if not kept under control. It is preyed upon by hawks, crows other snakes and raccoons etc.
4) Northern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
This small snake, 8-13 inches long is brown, yellowish brown, or reddish brown in color. This species is easily recognizable by the presence of a black blotch on either side of the neck just behind the head, and a parallel row of black spots running along the back. Sometimes there is also an inverted 'U' shaped mark below the eye. The belly is pale yellow, brownish or pinkish in color with small black dots towards the edges of belly scales. The anal plate is divided while the dorsal scales are keeled.
Lives in moist forests, marshes and bogs, also found on golf courses. Hides under logs, rocks and stones.
May feed on insects, small fish & frogs, but prefers earthworms, snails and slugs. It is an important biological control agent for snails and slugs. It is preyed upon by raccoons, skunks, birds and milk snakes.