Do Garter Snakes Have Teeth?

A snake’s teeth are arguably the most dangerous part of them. When thinking about snakes, we usually imagine beady little eyes and two sharp, poisonous fangs, followed by a row of razored teeth. But the Garter snake is one exception to that particular stereotype.

Do Garter snakes have teeth? There are about 35 species and subspecies of Garter snakes. Some of these have teeth, others do not. The majority of the information I found stated that Garter snakes do not have teeth. However, upon closer examination, I found that Garter snakes’ teeth are so small that they are barely visible. Some even have a set of fangs near the back of their mouth that are also rather transparent.

Despite being noticeably fang-deficient, the Garter snake is an amazing creature. They still get around very well, even with little to no teeth.  Before we start, here is an article we recently wrote that’s all about garter snakes. We talk about their size, give information about bites, provide pictures, and include interesting facts.

If No Teeth, What Do They Eat And How?

Garter snakes include a wide variety of 35 species and subspecies. When looking at a Garter snake, you would think it had no teeth at all! However, if you pay close attention,you will find that Garter snakes do in fact have teeth.

The teeth as so small that they aren’t always obvious and visible if you’re not paying attention. Some of these subspecies also have fangs in the back of their mouths that are almost transparent.

Even though the neurotoxin released by Garter snakes is not very harmful to humans, the prey of the Garter snake becomes immobilized by it’s venomous saliva. They are fully equipped with the natural instincts and resources needed to catch their prey.

Garter snakes have a wide variety of foods it eats which is why they are so widespread across North America.

They will eat:

  1. Insects
  2. Rodents
  3. Earthworms
  4. Fish.

They swallow their food whole unless it is too large, then it chews on it until the creature dies of trauma.

The Giant Garter snake can eat the American Bullfrog and tadpoles with no trouble at all. Bullfrogs aren’t as slippery and squishy as what the Garter snake is accustomed to eating, which makes it a good example of the sort of prey this snake is capable of eating even though it doesn’t possess very large teeth.

Garter snakes will also use suffocation to kill their prey if necessary. They dislocate their jaw to swallow larger prey, and they eat it head first.

Eating their prey head first allows for every part of the animal to fold down smoothly and quickly, making it painless for the snake. If they were to eat it back-end first, the snake would have trouble with all the legs, ears, and things sticking out too much.

In this article we recently wrote, we talk more about what garter snakes like to eat, where to get their food, and how to feed them correctly and successfully.

What Should I Do If I Am Bitten?

First of all, if you are going to pick up a Garter snake, it will release a bad smell and it might even urinate on you. After that, if you are bitten because you decided to pick up the little bugger, know you are not in any danger. You should clean the bite just like you would any other kind of wound, but it’s not going to hurt you beyond a bit of skin irritation.

These snakes were thought to be nonvenomous a while back, but it has been discovered they produce a neurotoxin in their saliva. They are venomous, but their venom is only strong enough to make you really red and itchy. Carried in their saliva, this venom can spread to your wound if you are bitten, but you probably won’t die from it.

However, there have been some very rare cases in which someone has had to go to the hospital because of an allergic reaction. But again, you shouldn’t worry, it’s very rare for that to happen.

The reported cases I read were very obscure and it seemed that the person bitten was already sensitive to their environment. (Whether by the immune system or by just being sensitive.)

In this article, we talk more about what happens when a garter snake bites, how to disinfect the bite if you were bitten, and how to prevent garter snake bites.

Is It Advisable To Allow Garter Snakes in My Garden?

I saw a Garter snake in my backyard once and my mom, I repeat: my mom, encouraged me to try and pick it up because she knew it wouldn’t hurt me.

Having a few garter snakes in your garden can be a good thing. They love eating insects and small rodents, which could prove to be helpful for any green-thumbed gardener. However, if there are too many of them they will eat the good bugs as well as the bad.

Garter snakes cannot distinguish between bugs that are beneficial for your garden and bugs that will harm your garden. They will eat them all.

They will also bite if you step on them. While they are not harmful, they can still be aggressive and frightening, so it’s best to keep an eye out for your garden in case 2 or 3 Garter snakes turn into an infestation, and you definitely don’t want that.

Garter snakes love eating insects and small rodents.

You also have to be aware that garter snakes do not smell nice at all. When Garter snakes feel threatened, they release a foul-smelling musk. That probably isn’t something you want to be smelling in your garden. If there are a lot of Garters, it could become very stinky. 

How Do I Get Rid Of Garter Snakes?

There are a few steps you can take to get rid of Garter snakes, or any snakes for that matter. All you have to do is think of where they like to be. Here are a few different ways you can prevent snakes from coming into your home and garden. 

In your home:

  • Seal up any place they might want to squeeze into.
  • Get rid of their food source in your home… mice.
  • Buy some snake repellent. It’s pretty easy to find online.

In your garden:

  • Mow your lawn so that it is short. This makes it easier for you to see snakes.
  • Get rid of big, wet, mossy rock areas that snakes can make a home in. Garter snakes love a good, moist, rocky hiding place to slip into. 
  • Get yourself some snake-proof fencing. Snakes generally travel along a fenceline rather than underneath it. 
  • Fill in burrow holes.

Have garter snakes under your deck? Read this article we wrote where we give you ideas of how to remove a garter snake from underneath your deck. We also write about natural ways to get rid of garter snakes.

Related Questions

Where can I find a comprehensive guide to the 35 different subspecies of Garter Snakes? Click Here

Are there any other types of snakes that don’t have teeth?  There are some snakes that do not have teeth. The majority of snakes that don’t have teeth are not venomous. Generally, if they have teeth, they are venomous. If they don’t, they are not. 

Do people have Garter snakes as pets? Yes, the Garter snake is a popular house pet. If you are planning on getting one, remember they can be aggressive.

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