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ribbon snake

Q: I have a snake in my yard that is not afraid of us, but should we be afraid of it?

Q:  I have a snake in my yard that is not afraid of us, but should we be afraid of it?  It has a small head, mostly black with a yellow stripe down the side.

A:  I believe you have a garter snake ( Thamnophis sirtalis) or a ribbon snake ( Thamnophis saurius) and I am happy to tell you neither is poisonous and you have no need to fear either of them.  The garter snake is slender with a maximum length of 48 inches.  Large garter snakes may eat rodents but it commonly eats worms, minnows, frogs or toads.  They can be aggressive especially if cornered.

The ribbon snake, a close relative, is even more slender and reaches a maximum length of 40 inches. Ribbon snakes feed mostly on small fish, frogs or lizards.  They are shy and nervous and will flee if given any opportunity.   Both snakes will exude a foul smelling musk odor from their body if handled.