Photo Credit: Eric C. Soehren
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Masticophis flagellum flagellum
OTHER NAMES: Whip snake.
DESCRIPTION: Eastern coachwhips are nonpoisonous snakes belonging to the family Colubridae. This family contains the majority of living snakes and is distributed essentially worldwide. Coachwhips are one of the largest snakes in
DISTRIBUTION: Seven subspecies of coachwhips are recognized, which, as a group are widely distributed across the southern
HABITAT: Coachwhips are most often found in dry, relatively open areas. Throughout their range they are known from a wide variety of habitats, including, but not restricted to rocky hillsides, grassland prairies, desert scrub, thorn forests, chaparral, pine and palmetto flatwoods, coastal dunes, cedar glades, exposed rock formations, edges between woodlands and fields, and longleaf pine-scrub oak sandhills. In
FEEDING HABITS: Coachwhips are active primarily during the day, prowling through the woods and fields they inhabit. These snakes seem to have an exceptional tolerance to heat, remaining active during the hottest portion of the hottest days of the year, even in desert or dune habitats. Coachwhips are opportunistic predators, readily feeding on grasshoppers, cicadas, other large insects, lizards, other snakes (including venomous species), birds, and small mammals. They frequently hunt with their heads raised well above the ground. This posture likely makes it easier for them to spot the movements of their prey. Coachwhips apparently can smell their prey and follow scent trails like many other snakes. Unlike most snakes, however, they seem, ultimately, to locate their prey visually by keying on its movement. Coachwhips capture prey with their powerful jaws which have rows of inward slanting tiny teeth. They do not constrict their prey to kill it, but simply grab it and eat it alive. Coachwhips sometimes beat their prey against the ground or other hard surface to stun it. These snakes feed frequently due to their high activity level.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Coachwhips are oviparous (they lay eggs) and clutch sizes average 10-16 oblong eggs (1-2 ¼ inches long) which have granular surfaces. Mating takes place in the spring with the female laying her eggs in June or July. Most clutches are located in rotting vegetation or logs and hatch 6 to 11 weeks after being laid. Hatchlings are typically 12-16 inches long and receive no known parental care. Newly hatched and young coachwhips are lighter colored than adults and have a pattern of dark bands across their backs. This banding pattern fades as it gets closer to the tail, and gradually fades completely with age.
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"Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Masticophis flagellum.” Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coachwhip_(snake). (04/30/06)
Author: John S. Powers, Area Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries
Article: The "Deadly" Coachwhip