Bearded Dragon vs. Garter Snake: Which Unique Pet Suits You Best?

When placed side by side, the bearded dragon and the garter snake look as different as a pool of water next to a hill of sand. Indeed, the garter snake is amphibious, while the bearded dragon prefers hot, dry land. While they are both classified as reptiles, these creatures are not at all alike.

The bearded dragon walks on all fours; the garter snake slithers. Bearded dragons come from the dry, hot deserts of Australia, whereas garter snakes occupy most of North America. Similarities between the two include diet (insects), length (18″ or 46 cm longer), and a nonvenomous bite.  

It’s safe to bet that the bearded dragon and the garter snake wouldn’t have much to talk about, and the difficulty would lie in them finding some common ground. However, through some research, it’s obvious that the two species share both similarities and differences, so make sure to keep reading till the end to learn more about how they compare.

About Bearded Dragons

Seeing a bearded dragon is kind of like reading a George R.R. Martin book. Picture a scaly lizard about 20” (51 cm) long. Picture this lizard with a flat head and body. The head is triangular, with a “beard” of thorny spikes under its jaw. The beard puffs out when the dragon gets angry or intimidated.

About the only thing missing from this beast is fire-breathing capability. Having said as much, it does come from a hot, dangerous place: Australia. Their origin makes perfect sense considering our friend, the bearded dragon is a cold-blooded lizard; thus, it needs an arid climate to stay warm.

Bearded Dragon Fast Facts

I needn’t drown information about the bearded dragon in paragraph after paragraph. A quick list works much better.

Here’s what I’ve got:

  • The bearded dragon’s scientific name is Pogona (from the ancient Greek pogon, meaning “beard”).
  • The bearded dragon is omnivorous (they eat bugs, beetles, fruit, and leaves).
  • The largest bearded dragons reach about 24” (61 cm) inches in length.
  • The lifespan of the bearded dragon is around 4 years.
  • Typical bearded dragons weigh just under 2 pounds (0.90 kg).


As mentioned, these lizards require a hot environment. They are indigenous to outback Australia; however, urbanized areas of the continent are by no means out of bounds. The bearded dragon is quite comfortable around humans and can often be found lounging on fence posts or idling in eucalyptus trees.

Humans often adopt bearded dragons as pets. This is fine, especially if dogs and cats seem a bit prosaic for you.

In Australia, the exportation of bearded dragons has been illegal since 1960. Still, the lizards are bred in the United States and can live comfortably in North American homes, provided all their needs are met.


Brumation is a period of slow, sluggish behavior from reptiles during cool weather. It differs from hibernation in that it doesn’t last as long. Moreover, a brumating lizard—such as the bearded dragon—will occasionally wake up to grab a drink of water.

Bearded dragons brumate during the Australian winter. If you’re keeping a “beardie” as a pet, you may notice that it has stopped eating, sleeps more, moves more slowly, and does not wish to be handled. These are all signs that your bearded dragon is entering brumation.

Some bearded dragons brumate once a year, once every few years, or just once in a lifetime. It really depends on the dragon. Your veterinarian can tell you if your dragon’s lethargy is due to brumation or some other condition.


Male bearded dragons do not keep a little black book of girlfriend phone numbers. At the age of 9 months, they will approach a female “beardie” and begin to bob their head up and down. The female will, in turn, bob her head and sometimes wave her arm, giving them the go signal for sex.

During sex, the male will bite down on the female’s neck to keep her still. Female bearded dragons are oviparous—they lay eggs—and are ready to mate around the same time males are (9 months).

Mating normally takes place between September and March (summer months in Australia). The sex only lasts for a few minutes, and almost always begins with a head-bobbing “dance” between the two genders. With success, the female will lay her eggs about one month after copulation.

About Garter Snakes

Garter snakes are common North American snake species. They are so common—35 species in all—that describing them can be something of a chore.

Some have stripes; some don’t. Some have spots; some don’t. Some are 18” (46 cm) long; some are over 50” (127 cm) long. This is a highly variable creature—physically, at least—and unlike the bearded dragon, does not lend itself to unique specifics.

Garter snakes can often be found slithering through garden leaves, tall grass, and even tree lawns. They thrive in temperate climates, though some do just fine in warmer places such as Central America.

To call the garter snake an endangered species would be way off the mark. Like internet memes, they are everywhere, and plan to keep things that way.

Garter Snake Fast Facts

Here’s what you need to know about the garter snake:

  • The garter snake’s scientific name is Thamnophis sirtalis.
  • The garter snake is non venomous.
  • Garter snakes are carnivorous.
  • The largest garter snakes get to be about 50” (127 cm) in length.
  • Garter snakes live about 10 to 15 years.


It’s almost easier to list the places the garter snake can’t be found than those it can. They prefer the weather of a temperate climate, which puts virtually all of North America as fair game.

A garter snake does not typically stray far from water. You’re likely to stumble upon at least one wherever there are ponds, lakes, or marshes. The snake’s diet of tiny frogs and flying insects explains this. Worms and fish are also pleasing to the garter snake’s palate.

Being a snake, the garter likes to hide, especially if its environment is dangerous. Leafy and high grass areas make garters feel right at home. This reptile species is a common sight for hikers, bikers, joggers, or anyone in North America who likes to spend time outdoors.


Ask a garter snake where it spends winter vacation and it will give you a funny look. Rather than migrate to Daytona Beach, thereby missing so much wonderful snow, the snake chooses to hole up in a hibernaculum.

Under rocks, in home basements (yes), or deep inside older burrows—the garter is okay with them all. Being cold-blooded creatures already, they scarcely have a choice.

Here’s the scary part: Different species of snakes can and do hibernate together, sometimes in twisted ropes of a hundred or more. Think about that in December while sipping hot chocolate on a snowy night. Your basement could be a hive.

In spring, the garter snake emerges to mate…


Like most animals, the garter snake tends to get frisky in the spring. The males wake up from sleep first, and sometimes the early birds release female pheromones on a trail that leads away from female garters.

This trick fools other males into thinking there’s some action going down nearby, when in reality, the trickster is already doubling back to where the females actually are.

Sometimes a garter mating session is just one male and one female. Other times see a garter snake “mating ball” that consists of several males battling for the cloaca of one female.

But there’s more. In true Nicholas Cage fashion, male garter snakes can emit a kind of “vampire’s kiss” that renders the female without enough oxygen to struggle free during mating. After ejaculation, male garters attempt to release a mating plug into the female’s reproductive area to prevent other males from adding their sperm.

After around 100 days’ gestation, the female garter gives birth to live young—up to 80 at a time. Once the young are born—they’re gone. Almost immediately, the young slither away to become independent snakes.

As you can see, the bearded dragon and the garter snake are two very different reptiles. So how are they alike?

Likenesses Between the Bearded Dragon & the Garter Snake

In reading this piece, you may have noted some commonalities between these two creatures. 

Here they are in list form:

  • Both dragon and snake eat small bugs, frogs, and fish.
  • Both are cold-blooded.
  • Both are non-venomous.
  • Both like to subdue their females during mating.
  • Both dragon and snake are social.

Similarly to bearded dragons, garter snakes are surprisingly sociable. While most snakes prefer to be alone, the garter snake is actually fine with the company of other garters. In fact, they have been observed hanging out with buddies of their own species.

This “strength in numbers” behavior benefits garters in a couple of ways. For one, they are able to keep warm in cool weather. For another, predators are less likely to engage a group of garters than a single snake.

Final Thoughts

In comparing bearded dragons and garter snakes, we’ve found some common ground after all. However, to point out one final difference between the two, I should note that while bearded dragons make decent pets, garter snakes do not. With that, today’s herpetology lesson draws to a close.


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