Are Garter Snakes dangerous? — Marwah’s student essay

Are Garter Snakes Dangerous?

Garter snakes are one of the most common snakes found in the United States of America. They were named after the stripes across their bodies, which reminded people of the garters that men used to hold their socks up with. This species of snake is often found in the garden, giving them the nickname “garden snake,” but can also be found as a common pet in America.

Many people look at snakes and immediately associate them with danger, often thinking of venomous species such as the eastern coral snake. In my local community, we were raised with the rhyme “red next to black, you’re okay Jack, red next to yellow, you’re a dead fellow” to help us differentiate between the dangerous species (eastern coral snake) and the harmless one (scarlet kingsnake). 

Though we are raised with this sense of automatic caution towards these reptiles, not all snakes are dangerous. For example, a corn snake is harmless and is often kept as a fun pet. The garter snake, however, is a special case. These creatures are non-venomous which has labeled them as harmless, but their bite is known to cause swelling and itching. There have also been cases of bite victims having allergic reactions to the saliva of the garter snake, causing near-death results. However, this is not a common occurrence.

Garter snake sticking out tongue

Continuing on, there are many different species of garter snakes, so the level of danger varies per species. Let’s take a look at the common garter snake, this is the species that is a common household pet and is completely harmless. There are not many cases of garter snake bites, and when they happen they are often the results of accidently stepping on one. Another species of garter snake is the California red-sided garter snake. This species looks much more threatening than the common garter snake, but is also non-venomous. Humans will face the same reactions as the common garter snake if they were bitten by the California red-sided garter snake. Although, I suppose getting bit by a red and electric blue snake is a cooler story than being bit by a more plain snake.

Eastern Garter Snake isolated on white background

So, when asked the question, “Are garter snakes dangerous?” I believe the answer is no. Although there is a minor reaction to the initial bite, death by garter snake is not a threat to humans. Snakes, just like humans, defend themselves when they are threatened. Humans have a large sense of curiosity, so it’s no surprise that a lot of snake bites are caused by curious people wanting to “touch the cool looking snake.”

We as people tend to lack a sense of boundaries towards any creatures who aren’t human beings. That’s why we are really good at annoying our pet cats. If we were to create boundaries, snakes would not be as potentially dangerous as they come out to be. If you leave the creature alone, it won’t bother you, therefore making it completely harmless. People must learn to respect the snakes boundaries, just as we respect each others. This fact goes past garter snakes. Even the venomous species such as rattlesnakes, give us a warning to stay back, and yet people will still get closer. One must remember, it’s survival of the fittest. Or the survival of those with the most morals and common sense.

Author: Marwah Elsheikh

University of Central Florida

Student Scholarships

Every year Thrive Pest Control hosts an essay contest and the reward is a 1-year scholarship at a 4-year university in the United States. This blog post is one of those scholarships.