I often come across common garter snakes (Squamata: Colubridae: Thamnophis sirtalis) here in southeast Michigan. Today I was intrigued, however, by this particularly tiny individual. I stuck a quarter next to his head for scale, and that seemed to arouse his suspicion as he cast a wary eye and flicked his tongue inquisitively.
These snakes breed in the spring and bear live young in the late summer, so this little guy must have been a juvenile. He was only about 20 cm (7.9 inches) long, but full-grown adults reach 46 to 137 cm (18 to 54 inches) (Zimmerman 2002).
Although they usually have three bright yellow stripes running down their length, common garters are highly variable in coloration (Zimmerman 2002). This snake exhibited a particularly drab, brown-tan coloration. The typically bright stripes were a dull orange color on this individual.
This reptile was taking advantage of the early autumn sun heating some shale walkway stones for warmth. With winter right around the corner, he was probably also looking for a warm cozy spot to overwinter.
Zimmerman, R. 2002. Thamnophis sirtalis. Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.