Garden snakes, also known as garter snakes, are thin with long stripes down the spine and along the side, growing anywhere between two to four feet in length. The color varies. Usually garter snakes have dark, earth-toned scales with the middle stripe being tan, red, yellow or green, and their tongues are red with a black tip, with the chin and belly sharing coloration with the stripes.
The many varieties and subspecies of garter snakes makes them difficult to identify quickly; although they are all thin and striped, the stripes may be poorly defined or replaced by alternating rows of dark spots. Males are smaller than females with longer tails. The scales have a raised ridge running along their length. Sometimes mistaken for rattlesnakes, garter snakes are thinner and smaller with broader heads, their scales a different color. They also lack the distinctive rattle on their tails.
Garter snakes can be found in North America in a wide variety of environments, adapting as necessary; for example, garter snakes in the west are more aquatic than their eastern counterparts, while northern garter snakes hibernate in groups while southern snakes do not. Garter snakes are relatively docile and nonvenomous, only striking when aggravated.