Santa Cruz Garter Snake

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Being back in California last month allowed me to see my favorite Garter Snake in the wild. This species fills the niche of a Water Snake in the Golden State; it is often found around ponds and creeks.


The Santa Cruz Garter Snake is only found California and resides in central and southern parts of the state. It has two pattern morphs: one with a single stripe along the back, and a three-striped morph more typical of garter snakes.

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Although they are usually less than three feet long, females can be rather stout-bodied. Its bright yellow (or sometimes orange) dorsal stripe creates a striking contrast with its black body color.

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This is an active and alert species that will seek the shelter of water and plunge to the bottom of a creek or pond and hide when approached.

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It feeds mainly on amphibians including frogs, tadpoles, and aquatic salamander larvae, but small fish are also eaten.

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Like all garter snakes, the Santa Cruz bears live offspring. Broods consist of three to 12 young.

Third Eye Herp

Santa Cruz Garter Snake Giving Birth Today

Santa Cruz Garter Snakes only live in California from the San Francisco Bay Area to Santa Barbara County. There are no native water snakes that live in the Golden State, so this reptile fills that ecological niche, eating fish and frogs and using waterways as an escape route – it dives well and can stay submerged for quite some time.

I became fascinated with this species after seeing the one-striped morph on the cover of a book. I have been breeding them for four years now, though I’ve never seen one give birth until today.

Babies are born in a clear membrane that they break out of. Birth occurs typically 90 to 100 days after mating. This species usually has about a dozen offspring.

Young Santa Cruz Garter Snakes are miniature replicas of their parents. Shortly after breaking through their membranes, they shed their skin.

These snakes are completely independent of their parents and ready to start hunting for food. I feed mine small fish that I catch in the creek in my backyard.

Third Eye Herp