California Snake in NY?

Asked June 24, 2020, 11:06 PM EDT

On June 20, 2020 we saw this snake in Boutwell Hill State Forest, Cherry Creek, NY. It looks like a 2-striped garter snake, but our internet search says that the range of the 2-striped garter snake (Thamnophis Hammondii) is Southern California. Can this be right?

Chautauqua County New York

3 Responses

Thank you for your question. While it's possible that someone in your area had a two-striped gartersnake (Thamnophis hammondi) in their collection, and it escaped or they released it, it is probably unlikely. I believe the snake in your photograph is an eastern gartersnake, scientific name Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis.

Gartersnakes are known for their variability in color, patterns and stripes in individuals and in populations in certain locations. Eastern gartersnakes usually have three prominent stripes: two lateral and one vertebral. However, the colors of these stripes can vary, along with the color intensity, from brightly colored to faint. In addition, stripes can be totally absent. On your snake, you can see a portion of the vertebral stripe starting behind the head and fading a short distance later. Also, the two rows of markings on each side of your snake are very prominent. In the two-striped gartersnake, these rows are usually difficult to see, unless the skin is stretched.

To be absolutely sure, the snake would have to be examined for a scale row count and the number of other types of scales on the head and tail.

I hope this information helps, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.


Thank you so much for your response!

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