Do Garter Snakes Eat Mice? 6 Tips on How to Feed Your Garter Snake

Garter snakes, with their striking patterns and mild temperament, have long been a subject of fascination among reptile enthusiasts. 

As these snakes are commonly found in various habitats, there are many assumptions about their dietary preferences. So, do garter snakes eat mice? And if so, is it a good idea to feed them live mice?

Garter snakes do eat mice. However, it is generally not recommended to feed them live mice due to potential injury to the snake. To feed your garter snake, it is safer to provide pre-killed or thawed frozen mice that are appropriately sized for the snake‚Äôs girth. 

Keep reading to learn more about what garter snakes eat and how to feed a pet garter snake.

What Do Garter Snakes Eat?

Garter snakes are primarily carnivorous. However, their diet can vary depending on their geographic location, habitat, and the availability of prey.

Their diet typically consists of small animals, including insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, as well as earthworms, slugs, leeches, and small amphibians like frogs and toads. They also feed on small fish, tadpoles, and occasionally small birds or bird eggs. 

Do Garter Snakes Eat Mice?

While mice are not their primary prey in the wild, garter snakes have been observed consuming mice, especially in areas where mice populations are abundant.

When kept in captivity, garter snakes can be fed a diet consisting of pre-killed or thawed frozen mice as long as the mice are of an appropriate size, not exceeding the girth of the snake to prevent any potential health issues or difficulties in swallowing.

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Feeding live mice to pet snakes is generally discouraged due to the risk of injury to both the snake and the mouse. You can learn more about whether pet snakes can eat mice here.

Do Garter Snakes Eat Rats?

Garter snakes are generally not known to consume rats as part of their natural diet. While they are capable of eating small rodents, such as mice, their preferred prey items typically consist of smaller animals, such as insects, earthworms, amphibians, and small fish. 

Rats are considerably larger than the typical prey of garter snakes and may pose challenges for them in terms of capture, ingestion, and digestion.

How Do Garter Snakes Feed in the Wild?

Garter snakes employ different feeding strategies in the wild depending on the type of prey they encounter. As active foragers, they use their keen sense of smell and sight to locate potential prey.

Here are a few common feeding behaviors exhibited by garter snakes:

  1. Ambush Hunting: When targeting prey like frogs, toads, or small fish, garter snakes may lie in wait near bodies of water or in vegetation, remaining motionless until their prey comes within striking distance. They then quickly lunge forward to capture their prey.
  2. Pursuit Hunting: Garter snakes often engage in pursuit hunting for faster-moving prey like insects or small rodents. They will actively chase down their target, relying on their speed and agility to catch and subdue it.
  3. Constriction: For prey that is larger than their typical mouth size, garter snakes use constriction to subdue and consume their meal. After capturing the prey, they coil their body around it, applying pressure to prevent escape and suffocating the prey before swallowing it whole.
  4. Venom and Envenomation: Although garter snakes are not considered venomous in the same way as venomous snakes, they do possess mild venom. This venom aids in immobilizing and subduing their prey.

How to Feed A Pet Garter Snake?

a photo of a garter snake to show do garter snakes eat mice

Feeding a pet garter snake requires careful consideration of its dietary needs and appropriate feeding practices. So, here are some guidelines to help you feed a pet garter snake:

  1. Prey Size and Type: Select prey items that are suitable for the size of your garter snake.
    • For young snakes, choose prey that is smaller in size, such as appropriately sized insects (e.g., crickets) or small earthworms. 
    • As your snake grows, you can gradually increase the prey size to accommodate its expanding girth. Suitable prey options also include thawed frozen rodents (mice) that are appropriate for your snake’s size.
  2. Prey Source: It is generally recommended to provide pre-killed or thawed frozen prey for safety reasons. This ensures that the prey is not a threat to the snake and reduces the risk of injury to both the snake and the prey. It also helps avoid the potential transmission of parasites or diseases from live prey.
  3. Feeding Schedule: The frequency of feedings depends on the age, size, and metabolism of your garter snake.
    • Younger snakes typically require more frequent meals, such as every 5-7 days, while adult snakes can be fed every 1-2 weeks. 
    • Observe your snake’s body condition and adjust the feeding schedule as needed to maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Presentation and Feeding: Use feeding tongs or tweezers to offer the prey to your garter snake. Gently wiggle the prey item to simulate movement and attract the snake’s attention, then allow the snake to strike and capture the prey.
    • Avoid using your hands directly, as this can lead to accidental bites or unnecessary stress for the snake.
  5. Post-Feeding Care: After your garter snake has consumed its meal, provide a quiet and undisturbed environment for digestion. Make sure to remove any uneaten prey items after a few hours to avoid spoilage.
  6. Water Availability: Always ensure that fresh, clean water is available for your garter snake at all times. Place a shallow water dish in the enclosure to allow the snake to drink and soak if desired.

Remember to monitor your pet’s overall health, body condition, and appetite. If you have any concerns or questions about feeding your pet garter snake, consult with a reptile specialist or veterinarian experienced in reptile care for personalized guidance.


In conclusion, garter snakes are known to eat mice, along with a variety of other small prey. However, it is crucial to consider the specific needs and preferences of individual snakes and provide a well-balanced diet that mimics their natural feeding habits. 

If you are considering keeping garter snakes as pets,  it is important to provide a balanced diet that mimics their natural feeding habits. Feeding pre-killed or thawed frozen prey items, appropriate in size for the snake, is the recommended method to ensure their safety and well-being.

I also recommended consulting with a reptile specialist or veterinarian who can provide valuable guidance on their diet and feeding practices.

Understanding the dietary preferences of garter snakes and providing appropriate care will contribute to the health and happiness of these fascinating reptiles in captivity.

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