Species Profile: California Red-Sided Garter Snake

California red-sided snakes are a fun snake to have as a pet. They are cool to look at, due to their stripes and the designs they have on their bodies. Before you buy a snake, however, you usually need to do some research on that species so that you know what you are possibly getting.  Lucky for you, I have all the information you will need right here.

What do you need to know about the California red-sided garter snake species? California red-sided snakes are red with yellow or blue stripes down their body length-wise, and they have black spots down their back in lines. They are located throughout California, generally around coastal dunes and marshes. They are hunted by large fish, snakes, birds, bullfrogs, and snapping turtles. These snakes eat small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, earthworms, leeches, insects, and eggs.

If you continue to read, you will be able to find out all the information you need to know about the California red-sided snakes. This way you can get know everything you need to know and maybe even set up a way to get your desired California red-sided snake.

California Red-sided Garter Snakes Have Unusual Scale Patterns

The California red-sided snake is a snake that is associated with the garter snake family. This snake at its adult size usually reaches about 3 feet in length and is super skinny. These snakes have a red colored base. They have stripes that go down the length of their back that is generally a blue or yellow color.

These snakes also have lines of spots or blotches that line down their backs as well. This snake also has a red or orange colored head, usually varying by what region it’s from.

This snake is typically mistaken for the San Francisco garter snake because the designs can vary. Sometimes the California red-sided snake can have its black show much more prominent than the red which makes it look more like the San Francisco garter snake, more so than the California red-sided snake.

The difference between the San Francisco garter snake and California red-sided snake is that the San Francisco garter snake has red blotching instead of black blotching on its body. This is why the two can easily be mixed up when the blotching is more prominent in California red-sided snake.

The California Red-Sided Garter Snake Likes the Coast

This species of snake is generally found in California but can be found in various places across the United States as well. The places it is most commonly found in is in marshes or dunes on the coast.

This species is spread out all the way from Humboldt County in northern California all the way down south through San Diego County.

The California red-sided is generally located near water sources. This includes woodlands, grasslands, farmlands, hillsides, marshes, and areas near streams and ponds. It can also be found occasionally near parks and gardens.

California red-sided snakes like to escape into water to hide from possible dangers or predators.

These snakes can be kept in a cage the size of about 20 gallons. The bedding most recommended for these types of snakes is cypress mulch. This tends to be slightly more expensive, but totally worth it for multiple reasons.

It won’t dry out your snake’s enclosure, it looks much better than paper towels and helps your snake to shed its skin better. This type of substrate is very good for your snake and looks good in your snake’s habitat which makes your snake’s enclosure much more presentable.

Another thing you will need in your snake’s home is a water dish. The water dish for your snake’s tank will need to be big enough not just to drink out of, but for your snake to swim in and I will tell you why. Having enough space for your snake to be able to swim in its water dish will help it get more moisture when it needs it.

The more water in the tank, the more moisture there will be in the air and when the snake is still feeling super dry it give him the opportunity to solve that problem with a quick swim.

The next thing to make sure you have for your snake is a hiding hole. This is necessary for your snake to feel secure in its habitat and comfortable.

It is recommended to have one for each side of the tank. One for the ambient temperature side, and another for the basking temperature side. These hiding places don’t need to be anything fancy or serious. Your snake will just need a box to hide in to get out of the light or heat for a bit.

One last major component necessary for your snake’s happy home is your snake’s specific heat settings. I personally recommend heating your snake’s enclosure with a dual temperature terrarium heating pad, but there are other options as well.

You could also heat your tank with heating strips or a heat lamp and both of these methods work as well.

Your California red-sided snake’s tank heating settings must be between 70*F and 72*F on the ambient side and between 80*F and 82*F on the basking side.

These differences in temperature are so that your snake can have a cooler temperature to escape to when it gets too warm and still being able to maintain the necessary body temperature for your snake’s survival.

California Red-Sided Garter Snakes are Predators and Prey

California red-sided snake, like every other animal on this planet, has both its predators and its prey. These are necessary for the balance of an ecosystem and how it runs.

Knowing the different species of both predator and prey, however, can also help understand why the snake does things or reacts the way it might.

This knowledge can also help to understand what you can and can’t feed your snake as well. The California red-sided snake is a carnivorous animal. This means, in case you don’t know, that it eats meat and other animals. This particular snake eats small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, earthworms, leeches, insects, and eggs.

These can all be found in the general habitual location of the California red-sided snake, not in captivity. These types of “food” for your California red-sided snake can be easily found and purchased in your local pet store.

On the contrary, as is needed to maintain a balanced ecosystem, the California red-sided snake has its predators as well. These predators are large fish, snakes, birds, bullfrogs, and snapping turtles. These animals tend to be larger than the California red-sided snake which makes them stronger and creates a vulnerability for the California red-sided snake. 

Are California Red-Sided Garter Snakes Dangerous?

California red-sided garter snakes have toxins that they release into their prey when they bite. They do this in order to eat their prey, but these toxins don’t affect humans at all. The worst that could happen with if one of these snakes actually bit you is the bite would itch for a little while and be irritated.

If you happen to get bit by one of these snakes, you have no need to panic. Just like most snake bites, simply clean it out normally and bandage it.

If you are concerned about the bite getting infected or something else of the serious matter, then you can take whoever got bitten to the proper physicians so that they can examine and treat the wound.

The California red-sided snake is not considered a dangerous snake to humans. 

California red-sided snakes may have big teeth, but that is simply so that they can inject the toxin into their prey when they bite them. These teeth may seem daunting, but the bite wounds usually heal up pretty quickly and pretty well if bandaged and properly taken care of.

Overall, the California red-sided snake is a rather mildly-mannered snake. Like any other snake, they only strike or attack you if they feel threatened or unsafe. It is simply their natural and biological tendencies to do so. So, make sure you are safe with your California red-sided snake and have fun with your new pet.

Garter Snake Scales

Just like normal garter snakes, California red-sided garter snakes are unique in their scale structure and type. Garter snakes’ scales are keeled all down the snake. This means that these scales have a riidge down the cener of them going lengthwise. 

Keeled scales don’t have specific use that is known yet, but they do help with an important detail in the survival of these snakes. Keeled scales, due to their ridge down the middle, are not smooth and shiny. This lack of a smooth surface, in fact, makes the snakes’ scales actually appear dull. This dull feature makes these snakes much more camouflaged and harder to see in the wild. Due to this genetic condition being more apt to survive in the wild, it has evolved to become a common feature in garter snakes due to natural selection.  

Mating Pattern of This Snake

When the red-sided garter snake is coming out of hibernation, the males go straight to trying to find the females because after they emerge out of hibernation the mating season begins. During this, male snakes will wrap themselves around a female snake in hopes of being able to mate with her first. 

When these snakes are searching for a mate, the males actually briefly “lick” the female to get the scent of their pheromones which can determine a large multitude of things such as species, gender, population, season, reproductive condition, size, and age of the opposite snake that poses the possibility of being the male’s partner.

This is important because the male will need the other snake to be the same species and opposite gender, of course. But, more importantly, the size and reproductive condition of the snake is very important to the male because it can determine how many offspring the female can produce for the male. The male’s goal is to find the most fertile mate to produce as many healthy offspring for him as possible. Because of this, the larger females are often sought after the most comopared to the smaller sized female snakes.

Now, back to the females getting bombarded by mating-hungry males the second she leaves her hibernation habitat. As the females are leaving their habitats, they are bombarded by males entwining and wrapping themselves around her in hopes of mating with her first.

When the female has finally mated with one of these males, she emits a different pheromone which signals to all other males that she has mated already. This signal confirms the mating completion which results in all of the males untangling themselves from her and leaving to find another mate. The males then start the process all over again. They go find another suitable mate, entwine and entangle themselves with her in giant clusters in hopes of mating with her before another male has the chance to. 

California red-sided snakes are a very cool species and would make a pretty good pet. They have a unique structure and lifestyle but are a very manageable size and well-mannered snake. Good luck with your future California red-sided snake or in your further research of the species!

Related Questions:

Are garter snakes good to have in your yard or garden? Garter snakes are good for keeping out any other unwanted pests or insects that you may not want in your yard. They will either eat or scare away any of the pests you may have near your yard that might harm your garden.

What is the life expectancy of a garter snake? A California red-sided garter snake will generally live for ten years. However, it has been known for a garter snake to once live to the ancient age of 17!

Do garter snakes need a heat lamp? Like most snakes, garter snakes are cold-blooded and need an alternative heat source to keep their body temperature up. Without this, the snake may freeze to death. This heat may be sourced from a heat lamp or an under-cage heat mat for reptiles.

Danielle Newsom

Hey guys! I am an English major studying in Southeastern Idaho and loving every second of it. I love blogging and strive to help others with my colleagues to have ease of access in one place to anything they may want to know about snakes. I have some experience with snakes and have done crazy amounts of research in the areas I lack to help you guys get the best quality answers possible.

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