Thamnophis Butleri – Butler’s Garter Snake

Thamnophis butleri - Butler's Garter Snake information

Butler’s garter snake (Thamnophis butleri) is one of the smallest representatives of the genus garter snake (Thamnophis). This nonvenomous dark-brown or black snake with three yellow longitudinal stripes is found in the Northern United States and neighboring Canada around the Great Lakes.


The basic coloration of the Butler’s garter snake varies from olive to brown and black. Along the center of its back, the snake has a yellow stripe. In some specimen, the stripe can be faded or not visible at all. Along each side, the snake has another orange or yellow stripe. The darker area between the stripes often shows a number of black spots. The upper side of the head is uniformly colored in brown, olive-green or black. The color of the iris ranges from beige to brown.

Butler's garter snake in Michigan brown snake with yellow longitudinal stripes
A Butler’s garter snake found in Michigan. Photo: Per Verdonk

Since its range overlaps with the common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), which can also take on a wide variety of appearances with a central longitudinal stripe, the two species are often confused. Both species are harmless for humans.


The Butler’s garter snake is one of the smaller species of the garter snakes. An average adult reaches a total length of 20-29 inches (50-74) cm, whereby the females become much longer than the males.

Hunting Behavior and Habitat

Butler’s garter snake mainly inhabits water-rich areas such as swamps and marshes or lives near flowing waters. The snake is mainly active at dusk and hides during the day under leaves, shrubs or bushes. It feeds on smaller amphibians, fish and earthworms.

Thamnophis butleri - Butler's Garter Snake swimming in water found in ohio
As all other garter snakes, the Butler’s garter snake is an excellent swimmer. Photo: Benny Mazur


The Butler’s garter snake is not a dangerous snake for humans. Even though garter snakes produce a mildly venomous saliva, the toxines are not strong enough to cause any significant medical effects on humans or larger pets. Due to the size of the Butler’s garter snake, a bite that pierces through human skin is rare. In the few cases where a bite occurs, it may cause an itching or burning sensation without any serious or long-term effects.

Butler’s garter snake range in the USA

The range of the Butler’s garter snake is around the Great Lakes Region in North America. It occurs in Southwestern Ontario in Canada, in Eastern Michigan, Eastern Indiana and Western Ohio. Isolated populations can also be found in the Southwest of Wisconsin. In Indiana, the species is listed as endangered.

Scientific classification of Thamnophis butleri

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Genus: Thamnophis
  • Species: Thamnophis butleri
Thamnophis Butleri – Butler’s Garter Snake

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