Garter Snake Shed Skin

As we were taking a walk in our community I noticed a shed snake skin in the grass near the sidewalk. The featured image is a closeup side view of the head area. Images were taken with my iPhone 11 Pro with the 6mm lens, 4:3 image format, (Full Frame Field of View equivalent 52mm). I never have seen a shed snake skin before in person, only in photos. It almost has the look of a 3D computer modeling display!


Full view of shed skin – iPhone 11 Pro, 6mm lens, 16×9 format


Closer image of Head Area & Some Body, 6mm lens, 16×9 format (with slight crop of image)

Head snake skin_v4_6mm_IMG_2877

Closeup Head & Eye Area of shed Garter Snake Skin. iPhone 11 Pro, 6mm lens, 16×9 format, cropped slightly.

Head Snake_Skin_v2_IMG_2875

Head snake skin_v3_6mm_IMG_2877

Another Closeup Head & Eye Area of shed Garter Snake Skin. iPhone 11 Pro, 6mm lens, 16×9 format, cropped slightly.

As garter snakes grow, they must shed their skin. Unlike other creatures like humans, a snake’s skin does not grow along its body. Its scales are made of keratin, which is the same protein found in our fingernails. When garter snakes slither along the ground, their scales scrape on rocks, dirt and other debris. This movement is important to help snakes shed their skins. Snake skin usually sheds off in one continuous piece, starting around the lips and ending at the tail.

The young garter snake grow rapidly as they feed on prey items such as insects, amphibians and earthworms. As they grow, they have to shed their skin approximately every four to five weeks. As they mature and grow into full-sized adults between 2 and 4 years old, the amount of shedding declines since they are not growing as rapidly. Mature garter snakes shed a few times each year, due to wear and tear on their scales. In a healthy garter snake, the entire shedding process takes a little longer than one week.

Shedding Skin –

The initial shedding process involves the garter snake secreting a milky fluid that helps separate the new skin from the old skin. A garter snake hides and won’t eat since he is blind when he sheds. When ready, a garter snake rubs his mouth on the ground to help push up the older skin. He then slowly makes his way out of his old skin by slithering along the ground, encouraging the skin the retract inside-out as it comes off in one piece.

Garter snake_v1_IMG_2884

Garter snake that was by the shed skin, photographed the next day. It seemed like we interrupted the Garter Snake eating it’s shed skin.

16 Comments on “Garter Snake Shed Skin

  1. Thank you for this extremely informative and fascinating post, Reed! I have actually seen snake skins but never paid close attention. I had no idea that the shed skin could be so complete and intact that even the eye spaces would be visible. I love your notion about the computer 3-D modeling.

    • Thanks! I was surprised to see it also and to be so intact! I did not see the Garter snake near the shed skin. But the next day we did see it by the partially eaten shed skin, but it slithered away from it when we walked by. But I did manage to get an image of it when it came to a stop a few feet away.

      • I was surprised to see it by the shed skin the next day! Actually I was surprised the shed skin was still there!

    • Thanks Donna! I have seen small pieces of shed skin before, but this is the first time I have seen an almost entire shed skin. Especially liked the head area!

    • Thanks Belinda! I have only seen small pieces of shed skin in the past. So I never realized it shed it in one complete piece! Luckily my iPhone does a decent job in capturing detailed images when I come across opportunities unexpectedly! Also using Adobe Camera Raw really helps getting the most detail out of iPhone images.

  2. Nice detailed post! I have snakes living near our house and quite often I see skins also. I have wondered how they get rid off the old skin. Now I know!

    • Thanks Minna! I never really thought about snakes shedding skin. I have seen small pieces here and there in the past, but never a whole one. So it was interesting to see & photograph! Plus I learned something!!

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