Garter snake

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A garter snake, S, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is a non-poisonous variety of snake that can swim and hide under objects, and are the first snakes (and often the first hiding monsters) that you may encounter.

A garter snake has a single bite attack.


Randomly generated garter snakes can appear in large groups of 2-11 each, and may generate as peaceful towards neutral player characters.

Garter snakes generate among the random S that are part of the second quest monster class for Archeologists and make up 2435 of the monsters that randomly generate on the Archeologist quest. Garter snakes may generate among the random snakes that appear on the first and fourth variants of Medusa's Island at level creation.

Garter snakes generated at level creation are given a random item to hide under.[1]


Garter snakes are quite harmless on their own, but their tendency to appear early and in groups can overwhelm weak or careless characters - they can still be handled fairly easily, though be careful not to let a group of garter snakes trap you. Their ability to hide makes for a rude surprise when encountered in shops, though not nearly to the level of most mimics. Pets that are not terribly weak themselves should have no trouble dispatching a group of them.


The garter snake first appears in NetHack 3.0.0.


"Garter snake" is the common name for a group of small to medium-sized, mildly venomous snakes of the genus Thamnophis in the family Colubridae. The name is also used for Elapsoidea, an unrelated and much more venomous genus of snake commonly known as "African garter snakes".

Native to North and Central America, the "American" garter snake can be found in all of the lower 48 United States, as well as nearly all of the Canadian provinces south of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador). Their habitats range from the subarctic plains of west-central Canada east through Ontario and Quebec, to the Maritime Provinces and south to Florida, across the southern and central U.S. into the arid regions of the southwest and Mexico, Guatemala, and further south to the neotropics and Costa Rica.

Garter snakes are highly variable in appearance, and generally have large round eyes with rounded pupils, a slender build, and keeled scales (appearing ‘raised’); some have a pattern of longitudinal stripes that may or may not include spots, and certain subspecies have stripes of blue, yellow, or red, mixed with black and beige-tan markings. They also vary significantly in total length, from 18 to 51 in (46 to 130 cm). There are about 35 recognized species and subspecies of garter snake.

Garter snakes were long thought to be non-venomous prior to discoveries in the early 2000s, which revealed that they produce a neurotoxic venom; this is likely why the garter snake of NetHack is not poisonous. Despite this, garter snakes cannot seriously injure or kill humans with the small amounts of comparatively mild venom they produce, and they also lack an effective means of delivering it - garter snakes do have enlarged teeth in the back of their mouth, but their gums are significantly larger and the secretions of their venom gland are only mildly toxic. Evidence suggests that garter snakes can also become poisonous by feeding on toxic newts and retaining those toxins.



In SLASH'EM, The Snake Pit of the Lawful Quest may contain garter snakes among the random 2-4 S generated at level creation.

Encyclopedia entry

See the encyclopedia entry for snake.