Photo: Baby snakes!


Posted by on Thu, March 25, 2010

Barry Parr
They're pretty hard to see in this iPhone photo, but there are three heads in this picture. We discovered these baby snakes Tuesday on a hike in the back of Montara.

CORRECTION: We’ve been informed by a herpetologist that there appears to be a single dorsal stripe from the back of the head on at least one of the snakes.  This would indicate that they are garter snakes—probably Western terrestrial garter snakes.

I’m sure they’re leveraging the wet weather of late. They could also be Chaparral Whipsnakes or your garden variety California Striped Racer. But I’m no ophiologist. I just used to catch these guys left & right as a kid in these parts, replete with securing them (or lack thereof) in confines much to my mother’s ill-fated encounters. FYI: snakes aren’t big on Oreo cookies.

Actually, they are Santa Cruz Gartersnakes (Thamnophis atratus atratus). Ranging from Santa Cruz up to San Francisco. They are very docile ann good snakes :)

Regardless of their identity, I had to share this tidbit from the Wikipedia article:

Whipsnakes are known to eat a variety of live animals including insects, lizards, snakes, birds, penguins and small mammals (Stebbins 2003, Swaim 1994)


Cool find, Barry.  Can you recall their approximate length?  From the surrounding vegetation they appear to be pretty small.  I’ve never been fortunate enough to stumble across the little ones like this.  Thanks!

(Penguins?!  Wonder what species.)

Fairy penguins / little penguins in Southern coastal Australia and coastal South Island New Zealand would still be awfully large for these little garter snakes, but perhaps a whipsnake could eat one if it was a really good swimmer! ;)

The latest, most-professional identification on these babies is that they’re garter snakes. Montara’s penguins are safe.

Hard to tell from the pic, but there’s not enough pattern for it to be a Garter, and/or at least an SF Garter. Eatern Garters can be more monchromatic (striping aside). But again, these are babies, put I vaguely recall Frank Zappa telling us they were pink, and come out at night.