Did you know garter snakes are venomous?
We tend to view this species as harmless, but they do have venom.
However, their venom is different from true venomous snakes.
The way they transmit it to their victims is also different.
Do garter snakes have teeth or fangs with which they inject venom?
They do not have fangs that inject venom, but they do have teeth.
Keep reading to learn all about garter snake teeth and how they use their venom. We’ll also tell you if you need to worry about garter snake bites.
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Do Garter Snakes Have Teeth?
Yes, garter snakes have teeth. They do not have fangs like venomous snakes, but they do have smaller teeth and can bite. They are actually venomous, but their venom does not affect us. Their bite can hurt, but is not overly dangerous.
That said, a bite could get infected. If a garter snake bites you, clean the wound and have a doctor take a look at it, just to be safe.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the world of garter snake teeth. We’ll begin with the different types of teeth you will find in a healthy garter snake’s mouth.
Types Of Garter Snake Teeth
If you look into a garter snake’s mouth, you’ll notice that its teeth start out shorter at the front and become longer the further back into its mouth you look.
In other words, not all of their teeth are the same. In fact, garter snakes have three types of teeth.
First, there’s the recurved tooth. These teeth have a shallow ‘s’ shape, which helps the snake keep a firm hold on its prey.
Garter snakes also have curved teeth. This type of tooth is shaped like a crescent moon, allowing the snake to manipulate the prey in its mouth.
Finally, the garter snake also has a linear tooth. This is a tooth with a straight tip. It helps the garter snake penetrate its prey.
One thing all three types of garter snake teeth have in common are ridges on each tooth. These help the snake keep a firm hold of its prey. They slice down on it when the snake closes its jaw over the prey.
Garter Snake Venom
It’s a common misconception that garter snakes aren’t venomous because they do inject venom into their prey. It’s just that the venom isn’t poisonous to humans.
And the venom is not exactly injected. This species does not have fangs and venom sacks like true venomous snakes. Instead it has a mild venom in its saliva. When the snake bites, the saliva enters the wound and the venom goes into effect.
The venom a garter snake injects into its prey also helps the snake digest its food. Like all snakes, this species eats its prey whole. The venom helps break down the prey once it is inside the snake’s body.
Garter Snake Prey
Because the garter snake can inject its prey with venom, this species’ diet can be quite varied in the wild. They can eat mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects, worms and mollusks.
Usually, a garter snake will eat prey that is smaller than its own body. They eat prey whole and can expand their jaw to make room for it if it is larger, but eating something larger than their width can cause issues like regurgitation.
In addition, if a garter snake attempts to eat prey that is larger, its venom may not work as effectively. For example, garter snake venom barely does anything to a human and the same would apply to larger animals. It is only effective on small animals.
When you feed a captive garter snake do not feed it anything larger than the snake’s body at its widest point. Ideally, you want to feed frozen mice (thaw them first) that are slightly smaller than the snake at its widest point. This makes for a filling meal, without being so large that it can cause problems.
Baby garter snakes are much smaller and can’t eat whole mice. Not even baby mice. Learn what baby garter snakes eat in this article.
Do Garter Snakes Bite Hurt?
If something bites you, it’s going to hurt. But some bites obviously hurt far more than others. I think we’d all much rather be bitten by a hamster than a tiger.
A garter snake bite is far closer in effect to the hamster bite than the tiger. If a garter snake strikes you, it will hurt, but not all that much. And there are not any dangerous after-effects apart from the risk of infection.
Garter snake venom isn’t poisonous to humans, so it won’t kill you. The most it will do to a human is cause some swelling in the place of the bite and maybe some minor itching. On very rare occasions garter snake venom could cause an allergic reaction. But this is extremely unlikely.
And garter snake bites themselves are rare. Biting is a defence mechanism for this snake. It always prefers to simply run away, but if it feels cornered and that it has no other options, it will strike to defend itself.
Are Garter Snakes Dangerous?
Garter snakes are not dangerous to humans. Their venom is mild and is only effective at disabling small prey. Garter snake venom is only a mild neurotoxic venom, meaning it barely does anything to a human.
The most dangerous thing about a garter snake is not the actual venom, but bacteria in their mouths. As mentioned, there is a risk of a bite becoming infected.
This can happen if you do not thoroughly clean the wound after the snake has bitten you. These snakes can carry harmful bacteria in their mouths and if that bacteria enters your body, it could cause some damage.
But again, you don’t need to worry much about any of this. A garter snake would much rather run from you than strike you. They are quite docile, and far from being the fierce creatures many people imagine when they think of snakes.
Do Garter Snakes Have Fangs?
As mentioned, garter snakes do not have fangs, like other venomous snakes. That’s because they do not have venom sacks that inject venom via the fangs when they bite. Instead, garter snake venom is in the saliva itself and enters the wound in that way, not directly through the teeth.
Do Garden Snakes Have Teeth?
We get this question a lot, but there is actually no such thing as a garden snake. It seems some people mishear the word ‘garter’ and mistakenly use the word ‘garden’ instead. /In other words, when people refer to a garden snake, they are most likely talking about the garter snake.
Garter Snake Teeth: Final Thoughts
Garter snakes have venom in their saliva, but they do not have venom sacks or fangs with which to inject their venom into their victims. The venom is also quite mild and has no effect on us humans.
But the garter snake does have teeth: three different kinds, in fact. And those teeth do hurt, if they bit you. But apart from a bit of pain, a garter snake bite is harmless. There is a risk of infection, but washing the wound thoroughly directly after a bite will minimize any risk.