Our coastal snakes are cool creatures

<p>Common garter snakes like this one are indeed “common” in our area, dining on a wide variety of newts and other small animals. They frequently nap on sunny hiking trails and can be surprised by humans who happen upon them. Capable of amazing spurts of speed, garter snakes retreat in tall grass and holes like little living bolts of lightning. Don’t fear them — they aren’t venomous.</p>

On one of the rare bright, sun-shiny mornings in July, I spied a very, long and slender common garter snake basking in the sunshine. It loves the warmth offered by the sun. There are three species of garter snake in Washington. They are beautiful with stunning color variations and are similar in appearance. The common garter snake is the most widely distributed species in our area.

All snakes have elongated, scaly bodies without limbs, eyelids or external ear openings. They grow by shedding their skin several times a year. They flick their forked tongue to collect information on potential prey and danger. Snakes belong to the reptile family.

The common garter snake is medium sized, often reaching 54 inches, but Washington snakes are typically shorter than the average of 22 inches. The Western Washington common garter snake is dark bodied with green, turquoise, blue or yellow stripes. It is the only species that has red blotches on the sides of the body above the lateral stripe. It is almost always found near water, but may also be seen in woodlands and meadows. Thus, it is not surprising that its favorite foods are newts, frogs, toads and salamanders.

Look for this cool reptile on the peninsula on a sunny day! And have no fear … it is not poisonous!

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