Thamnophis ordinoides - Northwestern Gartersnake
Gartersnakes have toxins in their saliva which can be deadly to their prey and their bite might produce an unpleasant reaction in humans, but they are not considered dangerous to humans.
A fairly small gartersnake - 13 - 38 inches long ( 33 - 96 cm), averaging 12 - 24 inches (30 - 61 cm). Neonates are about 6 inches (15 cm).
A medium-sized snake with a head barely wider than the neck and keeled dorsal scales. The head is relatively small compared to other California gartersnakes. Highly variable in color in pattern. Typically there is a wide and distinct dorsal stripe, but sometimes the stripe is narrow, very dull in color, or absent. The color of this stripe can be red, orange, gold, yellow, greenish, blue, white, or tan. There are usually stripes along the lower sides, but these, too, may be absent on some individuals. These stipes also vary in color from yellow, to tan, to whitish. The ground color is blackish, olive, brownish, bluish, or gray, sometimes with a reddish tint, or reddish specks, and there are typically two rows of alternating dark spots, which may be partly obscured by a very dark ground color. The underside is yellowish, brown, gray, or black, often with dark spots or red specks. Completely red, unstriped snakes occur in the Siskiyou Mountains. (St. John) Melanistic individuals are sometimes found.
Active in the daytime. Mostly terrestrial, escaping into vegetation not water when threatened, but capable of swimming. When first handled, often releases cloacal contents and musk, but rarely bites. In most areas, activity begins in March and ends in October, but this snake can sometimes be seen basking on sunny days in winter.
Studies have shown that the escape behavior of this snake is determined by pattern: striped snakes will escape by crawling away, since the stripes make it difficult to determine the snake's speed, while spotted or plain snakes will crawl, suddenly change direction, then hold still, as their pattern tends to blend in with the background. (E. D. Brodie III).
Mostly slugs and earthworms, occasionally snails, and amphibians, possibly fish.
Mating apparently occurs both in early spring, and early fall. Live young are born from July to September.
In California, found only in the extreme northwest along the coast, in Del Norte and northern Humboldt counties.
Occurs in California mostly in the northern coastal fog belt in damp areas with lots of vegetation and open sunny areas, such as lowland thickets, meadows and forest clearings. Can be common hear human dwellings. Often found beneath boards and other surface cover.
No subspecies are recognized, though there are geographic populations where one color morph is dominant.
Conservation Issues (Conservation Status)
There are no known threats to this species.