In the previous post, I mentioned that some herpetological references state that venomous snakes in our area have broad, arrowhead-shaped heads and that non-venomous snakes do not. I also mentioned that some species of non-venomous snake “flatten themselves, the head included, to appear more threatening when disturbed.”
Here are a handful of examples of that behavior. All are non-venomous garter snakes found at various locations here at the Museum.
First, the typical head of an eastern garter snake.
Now, several snakes who are trying to intimidate me into thinking they are something other than garter snakes.
The snake above was crossing the pavement in front of the Red Wolf Exhibit and apparently thought my presence threatening.
The individual above was alongside the path on the Dinosaur Trail. Notice the much flattened head and coiled body.
And finally, the individual below looks very much like it could be a venomous snake instead of a harmless garter snake. It shows the classic arrowhead-shaped head and is even flattening its body.
Looking at the images, you may have noticed that although these are all garter snakes, they’re different in color. There’s much variation in garter snakes. Some may be predominately yellowish, greenish, or brown. Stripes may dominate the pattern on some individuals while spots are more noticeable on others. And some may appear both spotted and striped. Regardless of what feature dominates the snake’s pattern, most individuals have three longitudinal light stripes (one dorsal and two lateral), however bright or faded they may be.