Thamnophis gigas — Giant Gartersnake
Also known as:
Giant Garter Snake
Giant Garter Snakes are, unsurprisingly, the largest of the garter snakes, known to reach lengths of over five feet. They are also the most aquatic of the garter snakes, and perhaps the most difficult to photograph, at least in my limited experience. Their historic range throughout California's central valley has mostly been converted to agriculture or urbanized, leaving an estimated 2% still habitable by this species. As a consequence, this species has a "Threatened" status, and the largest known remaining populations are within preserves and conservancies inaccessible to the general public. But there are at least a few spots where a lucky observer can still sight them. I spent an afternoon and morning searching a couple of those spots. My first reward was along this irrigation canal, where I saw two basking snakes for about two seconds each before they zipped into the water. I got good looks, but didn't have time to aim a camera.
Later that morning I saw two more at a different location. Each of these was also hurrying along, so once again I got no photos that contain an actual snake. Next time!
- Bartlett, R. D., Tennant, A. 2000. Snakes of North America, Western Region
- Brown, P. R. 1997. A Field Guide to Snakes of California
- Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2017. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding, Eighth Edition
- Ernst, C. H., Ernst, E. M. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada
- Rossman, D. A., Ford, N. B., Siegel, R. A. 1996. The Garter Snakes: Evolution and Ecology
- Stebbins, R. C. 1972. California Reptiles and Amphibians
- Stebbins, R. C. 2003. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition