Many people are so afraid of snakes that they even attack the harmless garter snake. The garter snake is one of the most docile of all the snakes. Yes, it can bite, but usually only if being threatened. And even if it does bite, it’s relatively harmless, no more than a bad scratch. If you don’t believe me, you can look at the Live Science site. They have a good article on garter snakes.
I first ran across garter snakes as a kid, when my brothers and I used to catch them to keep as pets. I didn’t know any better then; now, I simply leave them alone. When we first moved to our property where the sanctuary is, we noticed a large (24-30 inch) garter inhabiting the bushes next to the house. After my wife planted flowers, which attracted toads, frogs, and lizards, we saw the garter snake more frequently.It got to be almost a daily sighting. I’d be on my way to or from making coffee (also a typical occurrence), and I’d see the garter snake in the flower garden, apparently hunting for her food. The picture above this post was taken right after she ate a frog. If you look closely, you cam see the swelling in her belly.
She became such a regular sighting that I even gave her a name—Gertie—and she must have felt comfortable with us too, as she would let me kneel down to her level and pet her, without the slightest hesitation. Over the years, I would see Gertie almost everywhere as long as it was close to the house and flower beds. She’d be out front, out back, and in the breezeway between the house and our apartment. I once even saw her climbing the steps while chasing a lizard. The video below captures that experience.
I had never felt a friendship with a snake before, but with Gertie, I did. It lasted nine years. Then one spring she wasn’t there, and I haven’t seen her since. Her disappearance caused me to research the lifespan of a garter snake, and when I did, I discovered it’s about ten years, so I’m guessing her time was up. It’s a shame she left us that early, but she left a lot of good lessons behind.