Thursday, May 04, 2006

Eastern Coachwhip

I was up at our camp in Warren, TX today to work on our water pump, and as I was lifting the wooden housing that protects it there lay two eastern coachwhip snakes (Masticophis flagellum). One was about 3 foot long while the other was around 4 foot. The smaller of the two scrambled immediately to some nearby thick brush, while the larger one froze on the spot.
There's a good possibility that I had just invaded their "love" nest.
Now these snakes are pretty quick and I figured the remaining snake would bolt at any second before I could get my hands on it. Coachwhips tend to be very aggressive when handled meaning they bite.....repeatedly. And when they bite they chew. They also have been know to thrash about and this thrashing is what lead to the age old tale that this particular snake, when accosted, would wrap itself around an individual and bestow a whipping with its tail. This is totally untrue of course even though the very end of its tail is braided like that of a whip, which I'm sure added validity to this fallacy.

Luckily as always when I'm up here in the woods I keep my snake hook nearby. As I pinned its head it came alive, thrashing every which way. I grabbed it behind its head and then it did what most snakes do when they're picked shot excrement everywhere, but I hung on. No sense in letting a little crap ruin the rewarding experience of holding a live snake. Coachwhips are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They can reach lengths of 6-7 feet, are fast on the ground and can climb trees. They feed on rodents, lizards, snakes, birds and their eggs. They will cruise along the forest floor and fields, stop and then raise their heads above the high grasses in cobra fashion to look for unwary prey. Unlike rat and king snakes, coachwhips are not constrictors, but instead pursue their prey, pin it down with a part of their body, and then swallow it alive.

I was able to get a few good photos of its head and wanted to get some of its entire body so I took it out to an open area away from the thick brush and set it down. As I let it loose it tried escaping to the brush, and each time it did this I would step in front of it. A couple of times it got around me so I reacted by grabbing its tail and dragging it back out into the open. Several times it struck at me as I did this.

After a few minutes of this it decided to remain still, which I took advantage of and photographed it. It finally grew weary of this and instead of trying to go around me it decided to come straight for me. I walked towards it thinking it would stop, but instead it reared up and struck. This went on for several minutes while I continued photographing it and then finally allowed it to crawl away into the high grass figuring I had disturbed it long enough.

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Blogger Duncan said...

Interesting snake Jace, with that two tone colour scheme. I give my local ones a wide berth, they're all venomous, some extremely so.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I encountered a large eastern coachwhip in Stockbridge Ga in early May 2007. I observed it on a trail by a pond.When it saw me it literally "raced" away with its head held high. I couldnt help but think it looked like a brown mamba.However, it should be noted that there are NO venomous coachwhips!

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

August 2007. I encountered a 4 foot plus eastern coachwhip at our house in Citrus Spring, FL. It was two toned black and gray. It was just traveling across the backyard. First time I have seen this type snake. Robert

10:15 AM  

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