CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


San Joaquin Coachwhip - Coluber flagellum ruddocki

(Brattstrom and Warren, 1953)

(= Masticophis flagellum ruddocki)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Coluber flagellum California Range Map
Range in California: Orange

Click the map for a guide
to the other subspecies





observation link





San Joaquin Coachwhip
Sub-adult, San Luis Obispo County
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip
Sub-adult, San Luis Obispo County Adult, Kern County © Ryan Sikola
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip
Sub-adult,
San Luis Obispo County
Coachwhips have a long thin tail that has been compared to a braided whip.
Adult, Stanislaus County © Brian Hinds Adult, Kings County, courtesy of
R. Johnson © Patrick H. Briggs
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip
Adult, San Joaquin County © Chad Lane Adult, Kern County © Ryan Sikola
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip
Adult, Fresno County © Richard Porter
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip
Adult, Kings County
© Patrick H. Briggs
Adult, Kings County
© Patrick H. Briggs
Adult, Kings County
© Patrick H. Briggs
Adult, Kings County
© Patrick H. Briggs
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip
Adult, Fresno County © James R. Buskirk Adult, Kings County
© Patrick H. Briggs
Adult underside, Kings County
© Patrick H. Briggs
San Joaquin Coachwhip    
Top and bottom of head
© Patrick H. Briggs
     
       
Juveniles
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip
Juvenile, Kern County, found near downtown Bakersfield. © Ryan Sikola Juvenile, Kings County
© Patrick H. Briggs
Juvenile, San Benito County © Jackson Shedd
San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip San Joaquin Coachwhip  
Juvenile, Kings County © Patrick H. Briggs  
       
Habitat
San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat
Habitat, Kings County Habitat, San Joaquin County Habitat, San Luis Obispo County
Habitat, Kings County
San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat
Habitat, Kings County
© Patrick Briggs
Habitat, San Joaquin County Habitat, Fresno County

Habitat, Alameda County
San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat San Joaquin Coachwhip Habitat California Legless Lizard Habitat
Habitat, Kern County
Habitat, Kern County
Habitat, Monterey County
© Mark Hannah
Habitat, Bakersfield, Kern County
       
Short Video
San Joaquin Coachwhip      
A very fast San Joaquin Coachwhip races across a dirt road.
     
     
Description

Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous)  -  This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Length
Adults are 36 - 66 inches long (91 - 167 cm.) (Stebbins & McGinnis, 2012)
The only longer snake in California is the Gophersnake.
Hatchlings are about 13 inches long.

Appearance
A slender fast-moving snake with smooth scales, a large head and eyes, a thin neck, and a long thin tail.
(There is no well-defined stripe lengthwise on the body in this species.)
Large scales above the eyes.
17 rows of scales at midbody.
The braided appearance of scales on the tail (like a whip) gives this species its common name.
Color and Pattern
Color is tan, olive brown, or yellowish brown.
Lacks the very dark head and neckbands of the other subspecies of Coluber found in California - C.f.piceus.

Life History and Behavior

Activity

Active in the daytime. Able to tolerate high temperatures.
Moves very quickly.
Emerges from winter site relatively late (April - May) due to the species preference for warm temperatures.
Coachwhips are good climbers, able to climb bushes and trees.
Often seen moving quickly even on hot sunny days, but often seen basking on roads in early morning or resting underneath boards or other surface objects.
Frequently run over by vehicles and found dead on the road, partly due to the tendency of this snake to stop and eat small road-killed animals.

Defense
Often strikes agressively when threatened or handled.
Diet and Feeding
Eats small mammals including bats, nestling and adult birds, bird eggs, lizards, snakes, amphibians, and carrion. Hatchlings and juveniles will eat large invertebrates.

The ability to tolerate high temperatures enables this snake to hunt heat-dependant lizards when they are active. High speed allows it to run down the fast-moving lizards.

Hunts crawling with head the held high above the ground, occasionally moving it from side to side to aid in binocular vision and depth perception.
The prey is overcome and crushed with the jaws or crushed beneath loops of the body then eaten without constriction.
Breeding
Presumably mates in May and lays a clutch of 4 - 20 eggs in early Summer (June - July). (Stebbins, 2003)

Habitat
Occurs in open, dry, treeless areas with little or no cover, including valley grassland and saltbush scrub.
Avoids dense vegetation where it cannot move quickly, including mixed oak chaparral woodland.
Takes refuge in rodent burrows, under shaded vegetation, and under surface objects.

Geographical Range
California Endemic

This subspecies, Coluber flagellum ruddocki - San Joaquin Coachwhip, is endemic to California, ranging from Arbuckle in the Sacramento Valley in Colusa County southward to the Grapevine in the Kern County portion of the San Joaquin Valley and westward into the inner South Coast Ranges. An isolated population occurs in the Sutter Buttes. Apparently intergrades with C. f. piceus in eastern Kem County.

The species Coluber flagellum - Coachwhip, occurs very widely across the southern half of the U.S. from southern California east to Florida, and far south into Mexico, including northeast Baja California.

Full Species Range Map
Notes on Taxonomy
Coluber flagellum was formerly Masticophis flagellum

North American snakes formerly placed in the genus Masticophis have been changed to the genus Coluber based on a 2004 paper * by Nagy et al. Utiger et al. (2005, Russian Journal of Herpetology 12:39-60) supported Nagy et al. and synonymized Masticophis with Coluber. This has not been universally accepted. The most recent SSAR list has hinted that the genus Masticophis might be re-instated: "Burbrink (pers. comm.) has data to reject Nagy et al.’s hypothesis but we await publication of these data before reconsidering the status of Masticophis."


Six subspecies of Coluber flagellum are recognized. Only two occur in California - C. f. ruddocki and C. f. piceus - Red Racer.
(Some researchers recognize Coluber fuliginosus - Baja Coachwhip, which also occurs in California, as a subspecies of C. flagellum - C. f. fuliginosus.)


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Coluber flagellum ruddocki (Nagy et al 2004)
Masticophis flagellum ruddocki - San Joaquin Coachwhip (Stebbins 1985, 2003, 2012)
Masticophis flagellum ruddocki - San Joaquin Whipsnake (Stebbins 1966)
Masticophis flagellum ruddocki - San Joaquin Racer (Wright & Wright 1957)
Masticophis flagellum piceus - ssp. of Common Whipsnake (Stebbins 1954)
Masticophis flagellum ruddocki (Brattstrom and Warren 1953)
Masticophis flagellum (Shaw 1802)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Designated a Species of Special Concern by the state of California due to extensive habitat loss and fragmentation in its restricted range, including conversion of large areas of suitable habitat to agricultural use in the San Joaquin Valley and urban development in areas of the inner Coast Ranges, both of which eliminate the snake's food base and the mammal burrows it uses for refuge.

"Much of this subspecies' historic range has undergone dramatic land use changes from grassland to intensive agriculture in the Central Valley. Masticophis flagellum ruddocki is thought to be sensitive to disturbance and does not persist in cultivated areas (Ernst and Ernst 2003; S.Barry, pers. comm.). It has therefore suffered a severe range contraction in its Central Valley range."
(Robert C. Thomson, Amber N. Wright, and H. Bradley Shaffer. California Amphibian and Reptile Species of Special Concern. University of California Press, 2016.)
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Coluber North American Racers, Coachwhips and Whipsnakes Linnaeus, 1758
Species flagellum Coachwhip Shaw, 1802
Subspecies


ruddocki San Joaquin Coachwhip (Brattstrom and Warren, 1953)
Original Description
Masticophis flagellum - (Shaw, 1802) - Gen. Zool., Vol. 3, p. 475
Masticophis flagellum ruddocki - Brattstrom and Warren, 1953 - Herpetologica, Vol. 9, p. 177

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Coluber - Latin - coluber snake or serpent
flagellum
- Latin - whip - refers to the body shape and braided look of tail
ruddocki - honors Ruddock, John C.

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Snakes
C. f. piceus - Red Racer
C. fuliginosus - Baja California Coachwhip
S. h. hexalepis - Desert Patch-nosed Snake
S. h. mojavensis - Mojave Patch-nosed Snake
S. h. virgultea - Coast Patch-nosed Snake

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Bartlett, R. D. & Alan Tennant. Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co., 2000.

Brown, Philip R. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Gulf Publishing Co., 1997.

Ernst, Carl H., Evelyn M. Ernst, & Robert M. Corker. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003.

Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1957.

* Z. T. Nagy, Robin Lawson, U. Joger and M. Wink. Molecular systematics of Racers, Whipsnakes and relatives (Reptilia: Colubridae) using Mitochondrial and Nuclear Markers. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research (Volume 42 pages 223–233). 2004

Robert C. Thomson, Amber N. Wright, and H. Bradley Shaffer. California Amphibian and Reptile Species of Special Concern. University of California Press, 2016.
Conservation Status

The following status listings are copied from the April 2018 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List, both of which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status, you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.


The Special Animals List shows this suspecies as Masticophis flagellum ruddocki - San Joaquin coachwhip.


Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking G5T2T3 The species is: Secure—Common; widespread and abundant.
This subspecies is Imperiled - Vulnerable.
NatureServe State Ranking S2?

Imperiled in the state because of rarity due to very restricted range, very few populations (often 20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors making it very vulnerable to extirpation from the state.

U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife SSC Species of Special Concern
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN Not listed

 

Home Site Map About Us Identification Lists Maps Photos More Lists CA Snakes CA Lizards CA Turtles CA Salamanders CA Frogs
Contact Us Usage Resources Rattlesnakes Sounds Videos FieldHerping Yard Herps Behavior Herp Fun CA Regulations
Beyond CA All Herps


Return to the Top

 © 2000 -