Melanistic Garter sp.

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Mike VanValen
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Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Mike VanValen » May 19th, 2014, 3:55 pm

This photo was shared with me, and I got permission to post it here. A melanistic gartersnake from one of the islands off British Columbia, Canada.

Image

The person who took the photo said the snake looked "ominous". It's amusing how folks react to black snakes.

I'm not sure which species are on the islands out there.

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M Wolverton
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by M Wolverton » May 19th, 2014, 4:44 pm

Nice one. Looks like an ordinoides.

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Jeff
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Jeff » May 19th, 2014, 5:03 pm

That's Thamnophis elegans nigrescens, a subspecies no longer recognized, that are now considered very dark Wandering Garters, Thamnophis e. vagrans.

Jeff

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Bryan Hamilton » May 19th, 2014, 9:00 pm

I've had the pleasure of living near two areas with melanistic Thamnophis in Utah and Ohio. I don't have any pictures of T. sirtalis from Ohio but here is a T. elegans from Utah A high proportion of this population are melanistic. This guy was way too small to be ominous. Certainly very handsome.

Image

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Nature Nate
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Nature Nate » May 19th, 2014, 9:43 pm

beautiful specimens. I hear that the T. hammondii has a dark morph on Catalina island. I've tried to find it twice, both time taking a whole day to hike the entire watershed with no success yet. These pictures make me want to try all that much harder.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Kelly Mc » May 19th, 2014, 11:08 pm

I love melanistic anything. Garters are exquisite.

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Tim Borski
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Tim Borski » May 20th, 2014, 9:46 am

I dig the black ones from lower Baja. They are handsome little buggers for sure.

Tim

BethH
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by BethH » May 20th, 2014, 12:51 pm

OK, I have to ask. How can you tell that it's a garter snake? What are you using as an indicator(s)? I'd be flipping through the pictures in the snake book and scratching my head.

Beth, who seems to always be ready to ask the underinformed-question

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Bryan Hamilton » May 20th, 2014, 1:41 pm

How can you tell that it's a garter snake?
Hmm. really good question actually. In my case with Thamnophis elegans there are only 9 snake species locally, none of which are typically black, small, have keeled scales and smell like a gartersnake. This one also acted like a gartersnake, so gestalt I guess.

Sorry I don't have a good answer for you. There are certainly characteristics that would key out to gartersnake. I can look them up for you if you want?

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M Wolverton
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by M Wolverton » May 20th, 2014, 4:57 pm

Garter snakes are the only snakes in the northwest that are known for melanistic specimens like that. You can also see faint dorsal and lateral stripes on it. Though, I have seen a few elegans that have no trace of stripes at all, just pure black, or black with two white spots on the head.

It still looks like ordinoides to me due to the thin largely straight dorsal stripe, and they are a species known for having melanistic specimens. They are also usually much more common than elegans west of the Cascades. But cannot tell decisively without a closer photo of the head.

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Jeff
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Jeff » May 20th, 2014, 5:11 pm

My assignment to T. elegans was initially based on the intrusion of the dorsolateral dark blotches onto the vertebral stripe seen on the neck. That characteristic is typical of T. e. vagrans vs. T. ordinoides. Also, enlarging the photo shows 11 scale rows from lowermost scale row to vertebral stripe at the middle of the body, which translates to 21 midbody scale rows. In addition, it has 8 supralabials. All of that means is it is a melanistic Wandering Garter Snake, Thamnophis elegans.

Jeff

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The Real Snake Man
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by The Real Snake Man » May 20th, 2014, 5:29 pm

BethH wrote:OK, I have to ask. How can you tell that it's a garter snake?
There are definitely morphological characteristics that would indicate a garter snake, but mostly it's just that we've all seen enough garters/pictures of garters to recognize them on sight. I know it's not very helpful at all, but with practice, I'm sure you'll be at the same point soon.

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herpseeker1978
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by herpseeker1978 » May 20th, 2014, 7:14 pm

BethH wrote:OK, I have to ask. How can you tell that it's a garter snake? What are you using as an indicator(s)? I'd be flipping through the pictures in the snake book and scratching my head.

Beth, who seems to always be ready to ask the underinformed-question
Pick it up and smell the musk!

Josh

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Mike VanValen
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by Mike VanValen » May 22nd, 2014, 5:28 am

The Real Snake Man wrote:
BethH wrote:OK, I have to ask. How can you tell that it's a garter snake?
There are definitely morphological characteristics that would indicate a garter snake, but mostly it's just that we've all seen enough garters/pictures of garters to recognize them on sight. I know it's not very helpful at all, but with practice, I'm sure you'll be at the same point soon.
That was also my answer to the question :lol:

BethH
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Re: Melanistic Garter sp.

Post by BethH » May 25th, 2014, 3:18 am

Thanks for all the answers! I do hope I get better at identifying snakes. I'll be moving to a new area soon, and there will be a whole batch of new animals, plants and birds for me to learn. Beth

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