Common facts about the garter snake and opossum in FredCo

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

Can you believe May is here already? Things just started blooming and, out of seemingly nowhere, along with the burst of spring comes our wildlife friends.

However, if they are hanging around your house sometimes they aren't friends, but instead are a nuisance.

This week we are talking about the common garter snake, which is native to our Frederick County.

We actually have two types of garter snakes. We have the common garter, which is a dull brown and green with yellow or red stripes going down the back. The sub-species is known as the common checkered garter. This species, of course, is dull brown and dull green but it has blackish to brownish checkers all down the body.

The common garter is more slender where the checkered garter is more thick bodied.

Both can be found around the home, under bushes, under front steps and, of course, in the garden. This species is not dangerous. They do give live birth around spring and sometimes again in late summer where two to 30 young are born. Their diet consists of bugs, slugs, small toads, frogs and worms.

They do not eat any type of rodent. This snake can puff up when cornered to make itself seem more dangerous and it will release a very fowl smell from the cloaca sack to warn off predators.

This week I would also like to talk about the opossum.

Do you know the opossum is the only marsupial in North America. This means they have a small pouch in the belly region where the young are carried. A lot of people find the opossum very ugly, as it looks similar to a huge rat. To me the opossum is one of my favorite mammals and, well, I think they are kind of cute.

When the young are born they must make their way to the mother's pouch and there they connect themselves to a small teet. This is where all there nutrition will come from over the next weeks. As they grow they will come out of the pouch of course to take a look around the big world around them.

A mother opossum can have anywhere from 5 to 15 babies. As the babies grow and leave the pouch they sometimes ride on the mother's back. The opossum can be a nuisance around our home for knocking over garbage cans and raiding pet food that is left out.

Most of the time when you see a opossum that has been hit by a car it is often in the center of the road. When the opossum tries to cross the road they feel a vibration and instinct tells it to stay where it is. The majority of the time that is in the center of the road so, of course, they are playing opossum hoping they will not be seen.

They do not have the best of eyesight. It saddens me to see not only opossums but all wildlife that seem to get hit by cars these days.

Some people honestly don't see the animal and well there are others who will hit the animal for fun. Perhaps you could slow down and be more observant. You just never know.

Even though snakes are my preference, we will also from time to time talk about our native wildlife. Please send in comments or questions I would very much enjoy helping answer them. Well, next week we will discuss the common water snake.

Have a wonderful week and until next time ... stay safe.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper. She writes a regular column for

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