Overview

Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) The range includes southern Ontario, eastern Michigan, eastern Indiana, Ohio, and southeastern Wisconsin (Vogt 1981, Rossman et al. 1996, Minton 2001, Ernst and Ernst 2003).

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Range Description

This species is endemic to the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. Its range includes southern Ontario, eastern Michigan, eastern Indiana, Ohio, and southeastern Wisconsin (Vogt 1981, Rossman et al. 1996, Minton 2001, Ernst and Ernst 2003).
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Geographic Range

Butler's garter snakes are found in the southern Great Lakes region and into Indiana and Illinois. There are isolated populations in southern Wisconsin and southern Ontario.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Geographic Range

Butler's garter snakes are found in the southern Great Lakes region and into Indiana and Illinois. There are isolated populations in southern Wisconsin and southern Ontario. Throughout its range, Butler's garter snakes are often found in isolated populations as their preferred habitats are increasingly fragmented by human habitat destruction.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic

  • Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
  • Holman, J., J. Harding, M. Hensley, G. Dudderar. 1999. Michigan Snakes. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Extension/MSU Museum.
  • Behler, J., F. King. 2000. National Audubon Society: Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc..
  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Continent: North-America
Distribution: USA (NE Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, SE Wisconsin), Canada (S Ontario)
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Butler's garter snakes are small, stout garter snakes with three well-defined yellow or orange stripes that run along the length of their body on a background color of black, brown, or olive. They sometimes have two rows of dark spots running between their central stripe and the two side stripes. Their head is relatively narrow, not much wider than their body, and their scales are keeled (with a ridge along the length of the scale). Their belly color is pale green or yellow with black spots running along the edges. Adults reach a total length of from 38 to 73.7 cm. Males snakes are slightly smaller than females, and have slightly longer tails. Young Butler's garter snakes are born at from 12.5 to 18.5 cm. Other garter snakes have somewhat longer and larger heads than do Butler's garter snakes. Other sympatric garter snake species can be distinguished from Butler's garter snakes by the position of the lateral (side) stripes relative to the dorsal scale rows. One must count the scale rows from the ventral scales to the dorsal scale row and note on which row of scales the stripes occur. In Butler's garter snakes, the stripe is found on the third scale row, and also runs partially onto the upper part of the second row of scales and the lower part of the fourth scale row. In contrast, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis have stripes confined to scale rows 2 and 3. Often, juveniles are more distinctly marked than adults.

Range length: 38.0 to 73.7 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes shaped differently

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Physical Description

Butler's garter snakes are small, stout garter snakes with three well-defined yellow or orange stripes that run along the length of their body on a background color of black, brown, or olive. They sometimes have two rows of dark spots running between their central stripe and the two side stripes. Their head is relatively narrow, not much wider than their body, and their scales are keeled (with a ridge along the length of the scale). Their belly color is pale green or yellow with black spots running along the edges. Adults reach a total length of from 38 to 73.7 cm. There are 19 scale rows total and the anal plate is single.

Male snakes are slightly smaller than females, and have slightly longer tails. Young Butler's garter snakes are born at from 12.5 to 18.5 cm.

Other garter snakes have somewhat longer and larger heads than do Butler's garter snakes. Other sympatric garter snake species can be distinguished from Butler's garter snakes by the position of the lateral (side) stripes relative to the dorsal scale rows. One must count the scale rows from the ventral scales to the dorsal scale row and note on which row of scales the stripes occur. In Butler's garter snakes, the stripe is found on the third scale row, and also runs partially onto the upper part of the second row of scales and the lower part of the fourth scale row. In contrast, eastern garter snakes have stripes confined to scale rows 2 and 3. Often, juveniles are more distinctly marked than adults.

Range length: 38 to 73.7 cm.

Average length: 45 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes shaped differently

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Size

Length: 69 cm

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Habitat consists of open moist grassy/sedgy situations: meadows, pastures, marsh edges, margins of lakes and streams in open country, vacant lots, old dumps, railroad embankments, and roadsides, including such areas in cities; also seasonally dry uplands; shelters include logs, rocks, debris on the ground, old house foundations, burrows, ant mounds, and similar sites (Vogt 1981, Rossman et al. 1996, Harding 1997, Minton 2001, Ernst and Ernst 2003).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Habitat consists of open moist grassy/sedgy situations: meadows, pastures, marsh edges, margins of lakes and streams in open country, vacant lots, old dumps, railroad embankments, and roadsides, including such areas in cities; also seasonally dry uplands; shelters include logs, rocks, debris on the ground, old house foundations, burrows, ant mounds, and similar sites (Vogt 1981, Rossman et al. 1996, Harding 1997, Minton 2001, Ernst and Ernst 2003).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Butler's garter snakes prefer wet meadows and prairies. They are often found near marshy ponds and lake borders. These kinds of habitats sometimes occur in suburban and urban areas and relatively large concentrations of Butler's garter snakes can be found in those areas. Specific habitat preferences may help to reduce competition with their close relatives, Thamnophis sirtalis and Thamnophis sauritus.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

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Butler's garter snakes prefer wet meadows and prairies. They are often found near marshy ponds and lake borders. These kinds of habitats sometimes occur in suburban and urban areas and relatively large concentrations of Butler's garter snakes can be found in those areas. Specific habitat preferences may help to reduce competition with their close relatives, eastern garter snakes and northern ribbon snakes.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; scrub forest

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats mainly earthworms; also leeches and probably small amphibians.

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Food Habits

Butler's garter snakes eat mostly Oligochaeta. They will also eat Hirudinea, small Anura, and Caudata.

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Food Habits

Butler's garter snakes eat mostly earthworms. They will also eat leeches, small frogs, and salamanders.

Animal Foods: amphibians; fish; mollusks; terrestrial worms

Primary Diet: carnivore (Vermivore)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Butler's Garter Snakes help to control populations of earthworms, leeches, and slugs. They also act as important food sources for their predators where they are abundant.

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Predation

Butler's garter snakes are preyed upon by most predators throughout their range, including Lampropeltis triangulum, Corvus brachyrhynchos, Accipitridae, Strigiformes, Procyon lotor, Mephitis mephitis, Mustela, Soricidae, Vulpes vulpes, and Felis silvestris. They escape predation by attempting to escape. If harassed, though, they will exude a foul-smelling substance. If they are suddenly surprised they will thrash their bodies violently from side to side, perhaps to confuse predators and startle them in turn.

Known Predators:

  • Lampropeltis triangulum
  • Corvus brachyrhynchos
  • Accipitridae
  • Strigiformes
  • Procyon lotor
  • Mephitis mephitis
  • Mustela
  • Soricidae
  • Vulpes vulpes
  • Felis silvestris

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Ecosystem Roles

Butler's garter snakes help to control populations of earthworms, leeches, and slugs. They also act as important food sources for their predators where they are abundant. They are parasitized by certain species of trematodes.

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Predation

Butler's garter snakes are preyed upon by most predators throughout their range, including milk snakes, American crows, hawks, owls, raccoons, skunks, weasels, shrews, foxes, and domestic cats. They escape predation by attempting to escape. If harassed, though, they will exude a foul-smelling substance. If they are suddenly surprised they will thrash their bodies violently from side to side, perhaps to confuse predators and startle them in turn.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Known predators

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Known prey organisms

Thamnophis butleri preys on:
Actinopterygii
Annelida
Mollusca
Amphibia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 300

Comments: This species is represented by a fairly large number of occurrences (subpopulations) (Minton 1980).

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000. This snake is very common in preferred habitat in most of its range (Rossman et al. 1996), although Minton (2001) described it as a rare relict species in Indiana.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Butler's garter snakes communicate with each other primarily through touch and smell, especially for breeding. Outside of the breeding season they do not interact much with other snakes. They use their forked tongues to collect chemicals from the air and insert these forks into a special organ in the roof of their mouth, which interprets these chemical signals. Snakes are also sensitive to vibrations and have reasonably good vision.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; vibrations

Perception Channels: visual ; vibrations ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

All snakes have evolved special ways in which they perceive their environments. Their senses of taste and smell are combined by the use of a special organ, called the Jacobson's organ. This organ is composed of two specialized sensory pits located on the roof of the snakes' mouth. By flicking their tongues in and out rapidly, the snake transfers molecules from the air, as well as from things it may actually touch with its tongue, to the Jacobson's organ. This specialized sense is the way snakes gather and analyze most of the information from their environment.

Snakes are also highly tactile and sensitive to vibrations. Snakes have only an inner ear and they can probably detect low-frequency sounds.

Compared to other snakes, garter snakes have relatively good vision. However, vision is not the primary way that they perceive their environment.

Garter snakes primarily communicate with each other through pheromones, which act to stimulate reproduction. Touch may play a role as well.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; infrared/heat ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical

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Cyclicity

Comments: Active from March-November (Minton 1972).

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Life Cycle

Development

Butler's garter snakes are ovoviviparous. Eggs are fertilized within the female's body and develop and hatch within her.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The potential lifespan of Butler's garter snakes is unknown. The highest recorded lifespan in captivity is 14 years, average captive lifespans range from 6 to 10 years. Most wild individuals probably do not live as long as this due to predation and environmental stresses.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
14 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
6-10 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
2.0 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

The potential lifespan of Butler's garter snakes is unknown. The highest recorded lifespan in captivity is 14 years, average captive lifespans range from 6 to 10 years. Most wild individuals probably do not live as long as this due to predation and environmental stresses

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
14 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
6 to 10 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 14 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Parturition July-September (Vogt 1981). Clutch size about 4-20, increasing with female size. Sexually mature in 2nd or 3rd year (Fitch 1970).

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Butler's garter snakes breed each year as they emerge from winter hibernation sites. Rising air temperatures cause males to begin courting females.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Butler's garter snakes mate at their hibernation sites in the spring, before they leave for their summer feeding areas. Females give birth in mid to late summer to from 4 to 20 live young. Larger females and those that are better nourished produce more young per litter. The young snakes grow rapidly and may become mature in their second or third spring. They continue to grow throughout their lives.

Breeding interval: Butler's garter snakes breed once each year.

Breeding season: Butler's garter snakes breed in the spring (March to April) and have their young in late summer.

Range number of offspring: 4.0 to 20.0.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2-3 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2-3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; ovoviviparous ; sperm-storing

Average number of offspring: 12.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
730 days.

Female Butler's garter snakes nurture their young inside their bodies until they are born. Once the young are born there is no further parental care.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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Butler's garter snakes breed each year as they emerge from winter hibernation sites. Rising air temperatures prompt males to begin courting females. Female Butler's garter snakes are capable of storing sperm from previous matings (perhaps occurring in the fall) and using that sperm in the spring.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Butler's garter snakes are ovoviviparous. Eggs are fertilized within the female's body and develop and hatch within her.

Butler's garter snakes mate at their hibernation sites in the spring, before they leave for their summer feeding areas. Females give birth in mid to late summer to from 4 to 20 live young. Larger females and those that are better nourished produce more young per litter. The young snakes grow rapidly and may become mature in their second or third spring. They continue to grow throughout their lives.

Breeding interval: Butler's garter snakes breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Butler's garter snakes breed in the spring (March to April).

Range number of offspring: 4 to 20.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2-3 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2-3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; ovoviviparous ; sperm-storing

Average number of offspring: 12.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
730 days.

Female Butler's garter snakes nurture their young inside their bodies until they are born. Once the young are born there is no further parental care.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
  • Holman, J., J. Harding, M. Hensley, G. Dudderar. 1999. Michigan Snakes. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Extension/MSU Museum.
  • Behler, J., F. King. 2000. National Audubon Society: Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc..
  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Toronto Zoo. 2002. "Adopt-A-Pond" (On-line ). Toronto Zoo. Accessed 03/21/02 at www.torontozoo.com/adoptapond/guide/butlergartersnake.html.
  • Environment Canada, 2002. "Species at Risk: Butler's Gartersnake" (On-line). Environment Canada. Accessed March 21, 2002 at http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/species/search/SearchDetail_e.cfm?SpeciesID=588#note.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Thamnophis butleri

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
Hammerson, G.A.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N., Chanson, J.S. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of habitat modification, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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Butler's Garter Snakes are much less common than their larger relatives, Common Garter Snakes. They are easily distubed by habitat destruction and other human modifications of their habitats. The wet meadow habitats that they prefer have been largely eliminated and are still being developed at a rapid pace. Large colonies may survive in small pockets of habitat, even in abandoned urban lots, but these colonies can be eliminated in one afternoon when the land is bulldozed. They are listed as endangered in Indiana.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Butler's garter snakes are much less common than their larger relatives, common garter snakes. They are easily disturbed by habitat destruction and other human modifications of their habitats. The wet meadow habitats that they prefer have been largely eliminated and are still being developed at a rapid pace. Large colonies may survive in small pockets of habitat, even in abandoned urban lots, but these colonies can be eliminated in one afternoon when the land is bulldozed. They are listed as endangered in Indiana.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Current trend is not definitely known, but extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are relatively stable or declining at a rate of less than 10 percent over 10 years or three generations.

Global Long Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%

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Population

Population
This species is represented by a fairly large number of occurrences (subpopulations) (Minton 1980). The adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000. This snake is very common in preferred habitat in most of its range (Rossman et al. 1996), although Minton (2001) described it as a rare relict species in Indiana. The current trend is not definitely known, but extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size are probably relatively stable or declining at a rate of less than 10% over 10 years or three generations.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: No major threats are known. This snake has benefited from deforestation, and it thrives in disturbed areas in urban areas, but sometimes is eliminated or reduced with intensive development of its preferred habitat.

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Major Threats
No major threats are known. This snake has benefited from deforestation, and it thrives in disturbed areas in urban areas, but sometimes is eliminated or reduced with intensive development of its preferred habitat.
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Management

Global Protection: Several to many (4-40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Level of protection is unknown, but this species probably occurs in at least several protected areas.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Its level of protection is unknown, but this species probably occurs in at least several protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Butler's Garter Snakes help to control garden pests such as slugs.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Butler's garter snakes on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Butler's garter snakes occupy an important ecological niche within their geographic range. They help control the population of earthworms, leeches, and slugs which often makes them a friend to gardeners.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Butler's garter snake

Butler’s garter snake (Thamnophis butleri) is a species of garter snake in the family Colubridae. It is endemic to North America.[1]

Etymology[edit]

The specific name, butleri, is in honor of "Mr. A.W. Butler" of Brookville, Indiana.

Geographic range[edit]

It is found in northwestern Ohio, northeastern Indiana, the eastern portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, and the adjacent extreme southern tip of Ontario, Canada. Also, a disjunct population is found in southeastern Wisconsin.[2]

Description and identification[edit]

It is a small, slender snake, averaging 38–51 cm (15–20 in) long, with three yellow to orange stripes along the length of its body. The background color can range from olive-brown to black, and it may also be possible to discern two rows of dark spots between the side and back stripes. These features do little to distinguish them from most other garter snakes species, but the placement of the lateral, or side, stripes is unique to this species. In Butler's garter snakes, the lateral stripes are centered on the third scale row up from the ventral scales, and they also overlap the adjacent second and fourth scale rows. This contrasts with the lateral stripe placement of other garter snake species.

For those hoping to avoid getting close enough to inspect the position of the lateral stripe, other features may help in their identification. The head is unusually small for a garter snake, and, when excited, the effort this snake expends to escape seems to go more towards thrashing in place than to getting away.

Ecology[edit]

Butler’s garter snakes inhabit moist, grassy, open canopy areas, such as meadows, wet prairies, marshes, savannas and grasslands. Like Kirtland's snake, they may also be found in grassy vacant lots in suburban and residential areas. The species can often be found under rocks, logs, trash, and boards. They subsist on a diet of mainly earthworms, but they may also eat leeches, salamanders, and frogs. The species hibernates communally, often with other garter snake species. Butler's garter snakes are a relatively short-lived species, and they reach sexual maturity in their second spring.

Reproduction[edit]

The species is ovoviviparous. Mating takes place in late March and early April. The young are born in June or July, in broods of four to 14.[3] The newborns are 13–18 cm (5.1–7.1 in) long.[4]

Conservation[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, H.M., and E.D. Brodie, Jr. (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. pp. 146-147.
  2. ^ Conant, Roger. (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Map 113.
  3. ^ Schmidt, K.P., and D.D. Davis. (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 251-252.
  4. ^ Conant, Roger. (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 161.
  5. ^ Indiana Legislative Services Agency (2011), "312 IAC 9-5-4: Endangered species of reptiles and amphibians", Indiana Administrative Code, retrieved 28 Apr 2012 
  6. ^ Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, http://www.in.gov/legislative/iac/, retrieved 29 Apr 2013  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Cope, E.D. (1889). On the Eutæniæ of southeastern Indiana. Proc. United States Natl. Mus. 11 :399-401.
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