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Coachwhip Masticophis flagellum


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Coachwhip, Red Racer subspecies
credit: Dawson

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Family: Colubridae, Colubrid Snakes view all from this family

Description Small heads and large eyes with round pupils. They vary greatly in color, but most reflect a proper camouflage for their natural habitat. Typically a shade of light brown with darker brown flecking. Smooth scales, rows of 17. Divided anal plate.

Dimensions 91.4-259cm. (36-102")

Warning If harassed, a Coachwhip may coil up, shake its tail, and strike repeatedly, often at the face. Its bite is not venomous.

Subspecies Eastern - Dark head & neck. North Carolina to Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi River in Louisiana through Texas, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri.
Sonoran - Pink bands separate dark reddish bands. Arizona to Mexico.
Baja California - Yellow/gray with black bands that form zig zag pattern or grayish/brown with pattern of lines on sides. California to Baja California.
Lined - Dorsal scale on upper half of body has a dark streak down middle. New Mexico into Mexico.
Red Racer - Red/pink with crossbands or black with red under tail. Nevada, Utah through California, Arizona, Baja California and Mexico.
San Joaquin - Olive/yellow, no bands or blotching. California.
Western - brown/tan/yellow/olive/pinkish with crossbands, smaller at top, larger through middle of body. Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico to Texas and Mexico.

Breeding Spring. 4-16 eggs in a clutch laid June/July. Incubated for 6-11 weeks, 31-41cm (12-16") long born.

Habitat Dry areas, flatwoods with pine and palmetto, hillsides, prairies. Also desert scrub.

Range North Carolina through Tennessee, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California, Florida, Texas into Mexico.

Discussion Very fast. Grasshoppers, cicadas, lizards, snakes and rodents form main diet. Hides in trees or mammal burrows if chased. Longest living was 16 years, 7 months. Bites if threatened but not venomous.