Like their common name, the California Red-Sided Gartersnake (Thamnophis Sirtalis Infernalis), is found in California. They are found along the coast, east of the San Francisco Bay, just below the Monterey Bay, and south to Humboldt County. They are excellent swimmers and prefer habitats close to streams, ditches, marshes, or ponds. If threatened, they will attempt to escape into the water. These snakes can be found in many habitats such as forests, grasslands and farmlands.
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They are a subspecies the Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis Sirtalis), and they can be found further north than any other snake species in North America. In the wild, they live for between 2 and 4 years. However, in captivity they can live 6 to 10 years, or even up to 20 years. They are most active in the daytime, hunting and basking under the sun to regulate their body temperatures.
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California Red-Sided garter, a medium-sized snake, is larger than its male counterparts. Adult specimens can reach up to 18 to 55 inches (46 to 140cm) in length, but average size is 36 inches (91cm). Their eyes are larger than other gartersnake species. They are reddish or orange-colored and have a slightly wider head than their neck. They also have keeled dorsal and dorsal scales.
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The California Red-Sided Gartersnake's ground color is dark olive to black. Their dorsal stripes are wide and well defined, and range from bluish-yellowish in color. The lower side of the gartersnakes has light stripes. Sometimes these aren’t as distinct and blend in with the color range from yellow-green to blue.
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There are red bars that alternate with the ground color just above the lateral stripes. The appearance of juvenile snakes is similar to that of adults. They can be dangerously aggressive if they are disturbed or handled. They can also strike and coil. These techniques are often used to escape predators such as hawks, crabs, raccoons, and crayfish.
California Red-sided Garter Snake Venom / Bite
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Popular belief was that garter serpents were harmless, but recent research has shown that garter reptiles can be quite venomous. Their saliva contains toxins that can be fatal to prey. A bite could cause mild reactions in humans.
Garter snakes have large teeth but lack an effective way to inject venom. Garter snakes must "chew" their prey in order to inject venom into it. Contrary to pit vipers, which can inject venom into prey with their long hollow fangs, garter snakes are not venomous. They are safe for humans as their venom doesn't have a lot of toxic effects and they don't have the ability to deliver it quickly.
California Red-sided Garter Snake Diet / Feeding
California red-sided gartersnake eats small mammals, amphibians and fish. They can also kill and eat adults Pacific newts (Taricha), which are extremely poisonous to most predators. To protect themselves from predators, they also keep the newt's toxins.
California Red-sided Garter Snake Reproduction
The species' mating season occurs in spring and autumn. They are a viviparous species of snake and give birth to live babies. The average clutch size is between 8 and 20 young. After a gestation period between 60 and 90 days, the hatchlings are born mid-summer through early fall. They grow to be between 5 and 8 inches (12 to 20 cm) in length, and are independent from the moment they are born.
Most juveniles are born with pale colors. They are born yellowish, and then become brighter and bluer as they age and shed their skin. At 2 to 3 years old, the California red-sided gartersnake is sexually mature.
California Red-sided Garter Snake Conservation / Threats
The IUCN Red List has yet to assess the California red-sided gartersnake. Although the California red-sided garter serpent has no special status (T. sirtalis), some subspecies are endangered, threatened or rare. Most garter snake species are threatened by habitat loss and overcollection (they are popular as pets).
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