The common garter snake is widely distributed in North America. It lives in Alaska, is the only snake to live there, and as far south as Central America. There are a large number of species, as many as 30 -40. They are all of the family Thamnophis.
They are often misnamed simply because of the sound of the name. You'll hear them called Gardner Snakes, Garden Snakes, Gartner Snakes, Guarder Snakes and so many more. If it sounds like Garter then the snake will likely be called it.
The Garter Snake is marked similarly regardless of where they live. They have between 1 and 3 stripes on their backs; red, yellow, blue, orange or white are common colors. These snakes have blotchy spots between the stripes. They seldom reach lengths beyond 24 inches although in very rare instances they will reach 3 feet.
They are totally harmless to humans; which is a relief to many people. Upon seeing humans they will recoil in fear and hide; you won't even know they are there in most cases. While folks are afraid of them they serve a purpose in the ecosystem of you backyard or garden.
Garter Snakes are carnivorous creatures. They will eat anything and everything that they can overpower. Mice and frogs are often the staple of the Garter Snake but they will earthworms and fish. If they can grab a bird or spider or perhaps a lizard they will be glad to chow down on it.
They have to worry about being eaten though by a number of predators. Larger birds such as hawks and crows find them a tasty meal. If the Garter snake is unable to overpower its attacker then they can become dinner.
Garter Snakes live in a variety of terrestrial and semi-aquatic regions. They can be found almost everywhere including meadows, marshes, woodlands, along streams and drainage ditches. So you could well have some living in your backyard.
Some snakes lay eggs from which their youngster hatch. Garter snakes give birth to live fully formed little Garter snakes. Most Garter snakes give birth to as many as 40 children at a time.
In winter Garter snakes, like all snakes, hibernate. They are cold blooded and are unable to survive in the cold of winter. They will look for rocky areas in which to hole up but they will also seep into fissures in the ground, as long as they go below the frost line they will be fine.