Caring for a garter snake involves quite a number of things. These include caging, feeding, breeding, lighting, and temperature control, among other care practices. You must get these practices right if you want to give your pet proper care.
Garter Snakes at a GlanceBased on the little knowledge that most people have, snakes are good at social distancing. In fact, most snakes are lone creatures, which mingle only when it really matters (think hibernation and mating). However, this is not so with the harmless legless reptiles found in North and Central America. Yes, I'm talking about garter snakes.
Garter snakes are also known as 'gardener snakes' thanks to the fact that they prey on crop enemies, such as grubs, slugs, and grasshoppers. Large garter snakes can even kill and eat mice. Hence, a garter snake should be your security guard if you're a gardener. What's more? The snake is very active and alert, and that makes it a great display pet in your home. No one wants to have a dull, inactive pet in their home, after all.
To better understand garter snakes, this writeup looks at three aspects of this reptile species: which garter snakes make the best pets, what to think about before purchasing one, and how to care for garter snakes, which is actually the gist of this post.
Which Garter Snake is the Best Pet? With so many garter snake types to choose from, you may be wondering which garter snake is the best pet. As already mentioned in the introductory remarks of this writeup, a garter snake makes a good pet. No matter which subspecies of a garter snake you're considering purchasing, you can be sure the pet is gentle and friendly. Generally, garter snakes are not quick to bite. Instead, they prefer spraying their musk as a way of dealing with dangerous situations. As a bonus, these snakes are typically small, and they will rarely grow beyond 30 inches long (only a few garter snake subspecies surpass this length). Still burning to know which specific garter snakes are best for keeping as pets?
Well, history has it that captive-bred garter snakes tend to be better pets than their wild counterparts. For one, the former category is accustomed to such things as enclosed habitats and human interaction. They won't shrink and spray must anyhow just because your little Jeff has passed near them.
Wild-caught garter snakes, on the other hand, are not accustomed to human interaction and enclosures, and they are typically timid as a result. Thus, they may easily bite when they sense danger. That, however, doesn't mean that they cannot make good pets. If you're dying to have one, you can help your pet learn how to live with human beings. An effective tip is to give your newly captured snake a solitary confinement for a couple of day, say, three or so. This way, the pet will be able to organically adjust to its new habitat without necessarily feeling coerced to do so.
During the adjustment period, your garter snake may depict some queer behaviors, such as refusing to eat in your presence. This should not be a cause for alarm as it won't last forever. In rare cases, a wild garter snake may never completely settle in it's new habitat even after all the efforts to make the transition smooth. That leaves us with captive-bred garter snakes as the best bets when it comes to keeping.
Some of the most popular garter snakes you will come across in homes out there include Common Garter Snake, thanks to the benefits it comes with. Are there small rodents, large insects, leeches, and slugs feeding on your valuable crop? Common Garter Snake is bad news to these parasites. Other garter snakes commonly kept include, among others, the following:
Eastern Garter Snake
Checkered Garter snake
Plains Garter Snake
Blue-Striped Garter Snake
California Red-Sided Garter snake
Black-Necked Garter Snake
What to Think About Before Buying a Garter SnakeBuying a garter snake is like buying any other commodity in the market. You don't just wake up in the morning, drive to the market, and splash cash on something you do not know well. If you're looking to buy a garter snake, you may need to think about the following:
Is the Snake Wild-Caught or Captive-Bred?
As earlier on explained, a wild-caught garter snake tend to act more defensively, and they may be difficult when it comes to feeding. And, they are prone to internal parasites. If you're not prepared in dealing with these issues, then you will have every reason to go for a captive-bred garter snake. While the latter is not completely immune to these issues, you will be better off having a captive-bred snake.
Age of the Snake
The age of the snake also plays a role when choosing which one to buy. Small garter snakes are typically delicate to handle, easily stressed, and fragile in nature. They can also easily experience dehydration and overheating. Hence, you may want to steer clear of very young garter snakes unless you have vast experience handling snakes up your sleeves. As a rule of thumb, choose a garter snake that is at least a year old. In the unlikely event that you can't find a garter snake of that age, you can purchase a younger snake with a commitment of proper handling to avoid jeopardizing your relationship with the pet.
Health Condition of the Snake
No one in their right sense would buy a sick snake. Like you and I, garter snakes experience health problems. Some of these problems include:
Vitamin B1 Deficiency: This is a common problem especially among garter snakes which exclusively feed on the wrong fish. That is because some fish contain thiaminase, an antinutrient enzyme which destroys thiamine. You can tell that a garter snake has vitamin B1 deficiency by looking at symptoms such as violent convulsions, loss of motor control, and loss of coordination. This condition can result in the death of the snake if it's not arrested in time. So, be sure to examine the snake for these symptoms before you purchase. You can take a snake expert with you just to get everything right. Other health conditions to look out for include internal parasites and Blister Disease.
Price is always a factor to consider when purchasing anything, not just a garter snake. Doing some window shopping before you splash cash will save you money by ensuring you get the best deal in the market.
Caring for a Garter Snake as stated in the snippet, caring for a garter snake involves a raft of measures and practices. Some of the most important and basic ones include the following:
Call it housing if you like. The best caging practices should be done in a manner that allows your snake to exercise properly and stay as comfortable as it's possible. That means you should put your snake in a cage that is longer and wider than the snake itself. This will allow it to move freely without experiencing any stress. From experience, an adult female or male garter snake tend to be happy in a 25- or 15-gallon tank respectively, while a 5-gallon cage should provide ample space for a baby snake. And while you could house two garter snakes in one terrarium, trouble may ensue when they're trying to scramble for food, and this may result in injuries.
An important thing to remember when housing your garter snake is that these creatures are escape artists. Any slight loophole in the tank would provide an express route for escape. Hence, be sure that the cage you're using is escape-proof.
Name one living thing that can live without food. I guess you won't. That said, feeding is yet another basic care tip as far as a garter snake is concerned. And while a garter snake is naturally an opportunist, history has revealed that it prefers mice over everything else. However, for purposes of complete nutrition, your pet needs a varied diet, as this will keep it healthy and active. On top of mice, you could treat your precious companion to earthworms, fish fillet pieces, or platies.
It is worth noting that the amount of food you feed your pet will depend on it's age/size and the type of food. A mice eater can have food weekly, while a fish and worm eater can be fed five and two times a week respectively. In general, a baby snake needs more frequent feeding than an adult one. The feeding schedule doesn't have to be rigid though.
Your pet snake needs a surface on which to crawl and burrow. Deep substrates, including a reptile bark, sphagnum moss, or a coconut fiber bedding would fit the bill. A good tip is to ensure that the substrate you're using doesn't come into contact with moisture as this may result in blisters or sores on the pet's skin. Be sure to clean and replace the substrate regularly. You may also want to go the whole hog of disinfecting the tank just to ensure there is no breeding ground for diseases or infections.
Lighting and Temperature
Garter snakes flourish in temperatures between 75 and 85 degree Fahrenheit. So, make sure the snake tank is within this range. As a bonus, a 95-degree basking area will be a great treat for your snake. When it comes to lighting, 8 - 12 hours of a heat lamp in the day time is recommended. This will ensure that the conditions in the tank are warm enough to keep the snake comfortable. Choose nocturnal or infrared lights (whichever is convenient) for the night.
A garter snake, especially captive-bred, won't mind being handled since they are accustomed to human interaction. Just avoid tight grips and too much restraining. Give it enough support and be careful not to let it fall as it glides in your fingers. A point to remember is that some garter snakes can defend themselves with a bite or musking. The musk is never dangerous besides being smell. Simply rinse it off with water and you're good to go. If the snake happens to bite, there is nothing serious, so it pays to keep your nerves calm.