Western Coachwhip

(M. f. testaceus)

Approx 6 ft. Male Coachwhip found 10 miles North of Sierra Blanca, Texas on FM 1111 in Aug. of 2000

Size: An extremely fast,long, thin snake up to 102". 7+ footers are common.

Range in Texas: Found throughout West and central Texas

Comments: The Coachwhip is a non-venomous snake often referred to by locals as the "Red Racer". They vary in color quite a bit. The one above is the more common color. It is with out a doubt the fastest snake in the area. I usually see them literally "flying" across the road. I always encounter these snakes during the hottest part of the day. They are very hard to catch in any type of cover. When they are cornered or feel threatened, they will turn and strike repeatedly at their pursuers face. They have large teeth and are capable of inflicting a nasty bite. The largest that I have found in Hudspeth County was about 7.5 feet. I do not recommend keeping these as pets. They have a high metabolism and eat often. They RARELY calm down and will bite anytime given the chance. They will eat just about anything that moves that they think they can  swallow including venomous snakes and rabbits. They are VERY difficult to photograph.  For a closer and much more detailed look, click on the thumbnails below.

Close up of coachwhip neonate coachwhip

    The thumbnail below is of a 3 ft. Coachwhip in the head of a Yucca plant.  I have chased down several Western Coachwhips, mostly in open fields. On approximately five occasions, when the Coachwhip was close enough to see a Yucca, they turned and headed straight for it. When they arrived at the base of the Yucca, without hesitating, they scaled the trunk under the dead fronds up to the head of the plant. They then coiled near the center of the head concealed deep within the sharp fronds. As the picture shows, the only way to get to the snake at this point is through the fronds. The snake meanwhile remains coiled and ready to strike. As many of you know, these fronds are VERY sharp when bumped. Hawks are major predators of coachwhips and I think a hawk would have a hard time getting to the snake in this position. I once chased a five foot Coachwhip into a Faxxon Yucca approximately 18 ft. high. At this point, he just looked down at me. I chased this one off of a roadway into the brush. He saw this yucca and shot straight up the side and into the head. 

    Coiled and ready to bite (click to enlarge)