Garter Snake as a Pet?

Updated on July 17, 2012
S.L. asks from Lansing, MI
19 answers

Hi everyone!
Ok, so my girls love everything, and have been trying to catch a garter snake all summer and finally did today. They love this snake, and have been excellent with handling it. My 5 year old has really wanted one, but until today I wasn't sure how they would be with a snake. So I am wondering about whether or not it's safe to keep and easy to take care of? Part of me is like, it's a snake, whatever, but then I think I should go to this this really reputable pet store that gurantees the health and temper of the animals they sell. What do you guys think?
ETA: I have always had them let go of whatever they catch, and as far as salmonella I all too familiar with that! I think I will just get one from a pet store that has been bred in captivity!
Thank for all the input!

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R.K.

answers from Appleton on

I agree with the ones who said not in my house. I hate snakes I change the channel on TV if one shows up, throw out books with snake pics ect. My DIL thought my snake fear was funny and bought my grandson some toy ones and then forgot them at my house --- they went in the grabage. Not even toy one allowed in my house.

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T.M.

answers from Redding on

I think catch and release is the best way to go. I'd hate to be in an aquarium 24/7.

8 moms found this helpful

M.F.

answers from Portland on

I caught and kept a couple of them when I was a kid...
They didn't live long as I never had a proper tank for them, I used buckets and things like that.
But they are not venomous and even if they do bite, which is rare, they have round fish teeth, so it doesn't hurt.
Been bitten before by them.

Now that I am older, I want a snake as a pet, something I wasn't allowed to have as a kid (why they were in buckets, I was hiding them).
But, I want to get an aquarium, heat rock, stuff to dress the tank up, proper food, and everything first.
I also now want a red tail boa :)

But as far as safety, yes, they are safe.
You can buy "pinkies" which little tiny frozen mice, at the pet shop to feed it.
I recommend never feeding a snake live food, it makes them aggressive and more likely to snap when they see your fingers move near them.

Get a nice fish tank with a mesh (screen) top, get a small, shallow bowl for water, some leaves and sticks to crawl under and on, and a heat rock so it can stay warm.

Good luck.

ETA: I do agree with below, a bought, one made for captivity is better, I was going on the assumption that you already had this and were wanting to let them keep it.
And yes, salmonella, wash their hands. That is the main reason I have waited this long, wanted my daughter to be old enough to not be putting her hands n her mouth.

6 moms found this helpful
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S.B.

answers from Redding on

A snake as a pet?
Never in a lifetime. Not in my house.
I can't even watch snakes on TV.

That being said, I think that if your girls really, really like the snake, they should understand that perhaps the best thing for it is to let it go. Maybe it wouldn't be happy inside, in an enclosure. It's used to moving around freely outside. Also, snakes are cold blooded and neat heat to get their bodies and systems going.

If you are fine with your kids having a snake, I think you should really talk to a reputable pet store and discuss all that goes with owning and caring for one BEFORE you make the decision to go through with it.

It's just my opinion, but the one they caught should be set free to go back to his happy little life. That's part of the appreciation for nature.

Some reptiles are bred in captivity and I hear that they can make good pets.
I'll never know for sure, and I'm perfectly happy with that.

Best wishes.

5 moms found this helpful
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H.W.

answers from Portland on

Just FYI...

When I was eleven or so, we caught a garter snake in Grandma's backyard, using my jacket. The snake got freaked out and pooped on said jacket.

Snake poop is stinky. Worse than cat poop. Worse than dog poop. REALLY REALLY FREAKING STINKY.

So stinky that even though my cat is old and barfs all the time (and this is gross, believe me-- the smell makes me gag) I would rather deal with that than the stinky snake poop I smelled 31 years ago.

Just sayin'....
good luck with this! And if you do go 'pet store route', deal with a known herpetologist, not the dog+cat places. Reptiles and mammals are two entirely different sorts of critters.... chances are that your average pet store may have garter snakes caught from the wild too.

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T.V.

answers from San Francisco on

I think you should talk with your children and help them understand that this snake will not be happy in captivity. They should be the ones to set it FREE.

5 moms found this helpful
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B..

answers from Dallas on

This is not a reptile, that will thrive under your care. It will be unhappy, and it will not live long. What if they set up a little area outside and let the snake go there? The snake might stick around if you make an appealing outside home. (Google what kind of surroundings they thrive in.) They could observe the snake in it's natural habitat. I think this is a learning experience, of what animals can be captive in our homes, and which ones can't.

There is a very good chance of salmonella and listeria. Not a chance I would take.

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K.P.

answers from Seattle on

Those snakes aren't meant to be pets. They should set it free.

4 moms found this helpful

K.C.

answers from Washington DC on

Never, not in my house ... Deathly afraid of all of them, and have even barricaded myself behind 2 doors and a flight of stairs to avoid seeing the one that got into our office once. No reptile house at the zoo, no books, no flags (and we live in VA), no movies, no tv shows ... Nada, zilch, nothing. Say it with me ..... NEVER!!!

Yeah .... I've got a little phobia and ummmm .... Won't be gettin over it anytime soon .....

3 moms found this helpful
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V.P.

answers from Columbus on

I used to catch garter snakes a lot when I was a kid. I'd hold them and play with them, and then I 'd let them go. I do know that reptiles can carry lysteria and salmonella, so be sure to wash hands when you're done playing with it. I don't feel good about keeping it -- it's a wild animal. Animals in pet stores are bred in captivity usually, so they are accustomed to being cared for. I feel a little guilty taking an animal from its wild environment.

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B.B.

answers from New York on

How about a nice cat?

2 moms found this helpful
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J.M.

answers from Missoula on

I like your decision to get one bred in captivity. :) I hate when people take animals out of the wild, and try to make them into pets... It's just plain cruel to take something that is used to being free, and has never been handled and expect them to live in a cage. Not to mention the health risks to you and the animal... (although, as a child I always tried to keep garter snakes... lol.)

With that said, I love snakes as pets... but they definitely lose their novelty pretty quickly. Especially for younger children. Have you thought about getting something more 'fun'? It may sound gross, but rats actually make awesome pets!!! They are fairly intelligent, and can be trained a bit... much more fun to actually play with than a snake. With good care, they even show affection toward their owners, something you will never get from a snake. :) I only say rat because they are less common than hamsters or gerbils, so have more novelty there... but they are still 'container' pets...

Ferrets are amazing pets too, and incredibly lovable! :)

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S.L.

answers from Asheville on

I think it's fine if your ok with a snake in the house (not me)! Although I did live in a house once that had those little ring-necked garter snakes everywhere in the house i killed 40-50 one year. This kind of cured me a little of my snake-a-phobia:) But anyway, we had no problems with salmonella or anything. However, one word of caution, these snakes will bite, they have really small teeth, but just beware (my 14 yo bet me once that ine wouldn't bite, I won:) So, bottom line, go for it, have fun, learn about them (snakes really are interesting), treat them with respect, and remember to wash you hands!!!

1 mom found this helpful

J.S.

answers from Hartford on

It's a wild animal. If the girls want one as a pet, then they should get one from a reputable pet store, and not one that mills snakes. You'll need to do your research on this one.

1 mom found this helpful

M.B.

answers from Tampa on

I would let it go and get one from the pet store. My son has a ball python named Tizzie. He LOVES him and plays with him all the time. Snakes can make very good pets if they are handles from the start. And I have to disagree about feeding frozen mice/rats. We ONLY use live ones and our snake is far from agressive. Heck he's been around our cats and never strikes at them! And who really wants to keep dead animals in the freezer and thawing them, dangling them in front of the snake hoping it takes it while it's warm. And if it gets to cold you have to re heat it...no thank you not for me! I'll toss a live one in and be done with it.

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L.L.

answers from Rochester on

1. Have your children let this animal go. It's a wild animal, and you don't know how to take care of it. Nor should it be taken in as a pet. It's not a pet.

2. Pet stores don't guarantee the temperament of animals...maybe their health. But yes, a pet store snake would be a MUCH better pet because it's a pet. It's been bred for that (hopefully...like you said, reputable store!)

Snakes can be lots of fun...have fun with your new (as you already know you should) pet store snake!!! :)

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J.L.

answers from Detroit on

Pet stores that sell puppies are from puppy mills. Pet stores that sell birds are from bird mills. Snakes that are from pet stores are from snake mills.
Please, everyone, research before you purchase ANYTHING. So many animals, reptiles and rodents have rescues. Check with your local humane society, ask questions and adopt.

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C.B.

answers from Detroit on

Let it go. It is part of nature. And kids that age don't understand the needs of animals. If they want a pet, take them to the pet store and let them pick out something together.
And if you decide on a snake, remember that there are breeds that require live food. That can be scary and gross. Are you prepared to have your kids watch while Snakey has dinner? That would horrify me to no end.

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C.M.

answers from Grand Rapids on

My daughter caught one last year,it was baby. She tried to keep it and we got some pinkies for it ,but it would not eat and it ended up dying. So release it and decide how you want to get one if your kids are set on getting a snake.

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