We've got a question!
Keith Kline (@synkline) asks:
Just how long does a garter snake live?
That made me laugh, because I feel like I was indirectly set up by Todd. It was his newsletter article I reposted yesterday (and should have credited. I'll go back and fix that), and you'll notice that it's one of the questions he asks -- and doesn't answer -- in his opening paragraph. The answer to the freezing frogs, by the way, can be found in our Winter 2012 newsletter, which should be in your mailbox in the next few days. If you're not a Friends of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre member and would like a copy, just drop by the Nature Centre to pick one up.
Anyway. Back to garter snakes. We have three species of garter snakes in Alberta: the Red-Sided Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), the Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis radix), and the Wandering Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans). Here in Red Deer we see the Red-Sided and the Plains, but not the Wandering, which is also known as the Western Terrestrial.
I had a look in the Kerry Wood Reading Room library and found a little bit of information, but a bit more searching on the internet led me to Simply Wild Canada and its summary page of Canadian Garter Snakes. It seems to agree pretty well with some of the other sources I looked at so I'll use their figures here. Red-Sided Garter Snakes are our longest-lived local garter snake, with a lifespan of up to 14 years (although Snakes Alive says that only 1 in 5000 snakes makes it to 12 years). The Plains Garter Snake lives up to 7 years, and the Wandering Garter Snake up to 9 years. Keep in mind that for any snake to live that long requires a fair amount of luck, since especially in their early years they can be eaten by a variety of predators.
Remember, you can send us your nature and environment questions via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail (general at waskasoopark dot ca). Please use the hashtag #ecospeak on your question, or put Ask an E-Naturalist in your e-mail subject line.
Thanks for starting us off, Keith!