Garter Snake Population By State

garter snake population by state

Written by Emily Wolfel

Updated: April 15, 2023

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The garter snake is one of the most common and widely distributed snake species in the United States. The estimated total wild population of all 13 garter snake subspecies is over 1 million adults. Here is more about the garter snake population by state.

Get to Know the Garter Snake

Also known as a garden snake or gardener snake, this is probably the most common snake in the United States. It is a small to medium-sized snake that people often see on woodland hikes, near ponds, or in their gardens. It gets its name from the stripes that make it look like a garter. Many people call it a garden snake or gardener snake because it eats garden pests like slugs, leeches, and snails.

The females don’t lay eggs, they actually give birth to 10-40 live babies at once. Garter snakes grow to 18-42 inches long, and they’re non-venomous for all intents and purposes, since they’re harmless to people. But they do have slightly venomous saliva that enables them to incapacitate small animals like amphibians. Interestingly, garter snakes can recycle the toxins from certain amphibians to become poisonous to birds and other predators.

Garden Snake or Garter Snake

The garter snake is a species that is widely found throughout the United States.

©Charlotte Payne/

Where do garter snakes live?

The garter snake may be the most common snake in the country. It has an enormous range that extends across most of the United States and into Canada.

Garter snakes are harmless and often kept as pets. They were once considered non-venomous, but biologists have recently discovered that they have a very mild venom. This venom is too weak to injure humans, but their bite can cause irritation or itching. It’s unlikely that a garter snake will bite, however, unless it is threatened or provoked.

What do garter snakes eat?

They are carnivores who eat insects, snails, small birds, rodents, eggs, slugs, and small shellfish. They’re opportunistic feeders who will eat whatever is readily available around them.

Which states have garter snakes?

There are several subspecies of garter snakes, and most states have at least one. Garter snakes are more tolerant of cold than other snake species, and that’s why you find them everywhere, even in states with cold climates.

To complete this list, we relied on information from each state’s Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Commission, or other expert sources.


Alabama: 1

The eastern garden snake is one of the most common snakes in Alabama. It is widespread and listed as “least concern” for conservation status.

Alaska: 0

Alaska doesn’t have any confirmed native snake populations.

Arizona: 5

  • Terrestrial garter snake: Despite their name, these snakes are good swimmers who often live near water.
  • Black-necked garter snake: The state has two subspecies, the western black-necked garter snake and the eastern black-necked garter snake.
  • Checkered garter snake: This unusual snake has a checkered instead of striped pattern.
  • Northern Mexican garter snake: This fish-eating subspecies lives in wetlands and near creeks. It is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Narrow-headed garter snake: Another water-dwelling variant, this snake is sometimes classified as a water snake for its aquatic habits. They were given protection under the Endangered Species Act along with the Northern Mexican garter snake, and their federal conservation status is currently listed as threatened.

Arkansas: 2

• Eastern garter snake: It lives in woodlands, forests, grasslands, and suburban gardens.
• Red-sided garter snake: A subspecies of the eastern garter snake, this snake has red stripes instead of green.

California (11)

California is a big state with lots of ecosystems. That’s why it has so many species and sub-species of this common snake:

  • Santa Cruz garter
  • Oregon garter
  • Diablo Range garter
  • Sierra garter
  • Two-striped garter
  • Marcy’s checkered garter
  • Mountain garter
  • Wandering garter
  • California red-sided garter
  • Northwestern garter
  • Giant garter
  • San Francisco garter

Colorado: 4

  • Red-sided garter
  • Terrestrial garter
  • Plains garter
  • Black-necked garter

Connecticut: 1

Connecticut’s common garters live in forests, swamps, bogs, and streams. They often bask on wood piles or stone walls.

Delaware: 1

Eastern garters live all over the state.

Florida: 2

There are two species of garters in Florida:

  • Common garter
  • Blue-striped garter

Georgia: 2

  • Common garter
  • Eastern garter

Hawaii: 0

Hawaii has no garter snakes.

Idaho: 2

  • Common garter
  • Terrestrial garter

Illinois: 2

  • Common garter: The common garter lives all over the state.
  • Plains garter: This subspecies tolerates the cold better than almost any snake. It mostly lives in the northern part of the state.

Indiana: 2

  • Eastern garter
  • Chicago garter

Iowa: 3

  • Common garter: Despite its name, this species is seen less often than the eastern garter.
  • Eastern garter: True to its name, this snake lives in the eastern part of the state.
  • Red-sided garter: The red-striped garter prefers the western part of Iowa.

Kansas: 4

  • Red-sided garter
  • Common garter
  • Plains garter
  • Texas garter: This is a rare subspecies that typically lives near fresh, sandy, water sources.

Kentucky: 2

  • Common garter
  • Eastern garter

Louisiana: 1

Although Louisiana has many snakes, it only has one species of garter snake. The eastern garter snake lives in almost every part of Louisiana but is less common in the southwestern part of the state. It is one of the most frequently seen snakes in the state.

Maine: 1

Maritime garters are native to Maine. Their name hints at their association with Maine’s famously cold, wild coastline. Uniquely adapted to Maine’s harsh weather, these snakes live in forests, wetlands, rocky shorelines, and farms. They hibernate below the frost line in mammal burrows, spiny lobster holes, and rock crevices.

Maryland: 1

The eastern garter is the most widespread and familiar snake in Maryland. It lives in every county, and it is found in marshes, forests, meadows, and backyard gardens.

Massachusetts: 1

The eastern garter is the most common snake in the state.

Michigan: 1

The eastern garter is the most widespread and common snake in Michigan. Locally, it is known as the wild garter snake.

Minnesota: 3

  • Eastern garter
  • Red-sided garter
  • Plains garter


The common garter snake is native to Mississippi. As in most states, it is widespread but prefers living close to water sources.

Missouri: 2

  • Eastern garter snake
  • Red-sided garter snake

According to the state’s Department of Conservation, red-sided garters mostly live in the western part of the state, which has lots of prairie land, and eastern garters live in the eastern part. Eastern garters are the most common garter snake in the state.

Montana: 4

  • Red-sided garter
  • Terrestrial garter
  • Plains garter
  • Valley garter

Nebraska: 4

  • Common garter: The common garter is a frequent visitor to Nebraska farms and gardens.
  • Red-sided garter: Like the common garter, it lives all over the state.
  • Plains garter: This hardy snake is found all over the state.
  • Western terrestrial: Also known as the wandering garter, this is a rare subspecies that is only found in the extreme northwest corner of the state.

Nevada: 2

  • Common garter
  • Western terrestrial garter

New Hampshire: 1

  • Eastern garter

New Jersey: 1

  • Eastern garter

New Mexico: 5

The state of New Mexico has many snakes, including a good variety of garter snakes. The Mexican garter is a very rare snake that is hard to find. It is listed as endangered under U.S. law.

  • Terrestrial garter
  • Plains garter
  • Black-necked garter
  • Checked garter
  • Mexican garter

New York: 2

  • Eastern garter: The state’s most common snake species, it lives in lawns, old fields, and woodlands.
  • Shorthead garter: A rare subspecies, this snake is only found in a few isolated areas of the state.

North Carolina: 1

The eastern garter snake is abundant in all parts of the state.

North Dakota: 2

  • Common garter
  • Plains garter

Ohio: 4

  • Common garter
  • Eastern garter
  • Eastern plains garter
  • Butler’s garter

Oklahoma: 2

  • Common garter
  • Red-sided garter

Pennsylvania: 2

  • Eastern garter
  • Shorthead garter

Rhode Island: 1

  • Common garter

South Carolina: 1

The common garter, sometimes known locally as a striped snake or garden snake, is the most commonly found snake in the state.

South Dakota: 1

  • Common garter

Tennessee: 1

The eastern garter lives in every part of Tennessee.

Texas: 2

  • Common garter
  • Texas garter

Utah: 3

  • Terrestrial garter: This type of garter snake comes in so many assorted colors, it can be hard to identify. It is often confused with the striped ribbon snake.
  • Valley garter: This colorful member of the garter family has yellow stripes and bright red bars. They have adapted well to humans and often live in urban and suburban gardens.
  • Black-necked garter: The state has both the eastern and western subspecies of this snake.

Vermont: 1

The common garter snake is widespread in Vermont. It lives all over the state but prefers habitats close to water sources.

Virginia: 1

In 2016, Virginia named the eastern garter snake as the state’s official reptile. A government publication from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District named garter snakes “a gardener’s best friend.”

Washington: 3

Washington has three species of garter snake:

  • Common garter snake: This snake lives in coastal areas, mountain forests, and sagebrush deserts.
  • Western terrestrial garter snake: This snake is fond of the water and lives in wetlands and coastal areas.
  • Northwestern garter snake: It’s a frequent visitor to suburban gardens and farms.

West Virginia: 1

  • Eastern garter

Wisconsin: 2

  • Plains garter: This snake lives in the southern part of Wisconsin.
  • Butler’s garter: Butler’s garter is a small garter snake that may be 15 to 20 inches long. It lives in marshlands, prairies, and open meadows.

Wyoming: 1

The plains garter snake is the only garter snake in the state. Wildlife officials say it primarily lives east of the Continental Divide in small streams, sloughs, and ponds in the plains zone. As a snake adapted to chilly weather, the plains garter hibernates in rodent burrows, crawfish holes, rock crevices, and old wells.

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About the Author

Emily is an editor and content marketing specialist of five years. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania where you can regularly encounter anything from elk to black bears to river otters. Over the years, she raised livestock animals, small animals, dogs, cats, and birds, which is where she learned most of what she knows about various animals and what allowed her to work as a dog groomer and manager of a specialty pet store. She now has three rescue cats and two high-needs Pomeranian mixes to take up her love and attention.

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