Critter Corner - Eastern
DID YOU KNOW:
These slender, fast-moving snakes have a black head and upper
body, but the color changes to a metallic grayish-silver on the
lower body. The body color matches the coachwhips often
used by horse buggy drivers.
Coachwhips seem to be almost entirely diurnal (active during the
day). On warm, sunny days these snakes may be found
hunting in open fields. As they glide through the grass
they hold their head and neck up off the ground and smell for
prey. With excellent vision, they search until thy flush
out something to eat. Lizards, other snakes, rodents and
small birds are among their prey. Insects are important
food for baby coachwhips.
Coachwhips mate soon after emerging from hibernation. In
late June the mother snake lays about 12 eggs in loose soil or in
an old tree stump. The warmth of the sun incubates the
developing eggs. The babies are entirely on their own when
coachwhip snakes are found in the Ozark region of Missouri.
They range from the southeastern United States to northern South
America. Remnant prairies and open fields provide the
country the coachwhips need to survive. They rest and
hibernate in burrows dug by other animals.
The snakes remain motionless when danger approaches. If
they escape by rapidly slithering away. They are the
fastest snake in Missouri, though a person can easily outrun
one. If grabbed, coachwhips are aggressive fighters and
whip around and bite repeatedly to protect themselves.
Coachwhips are not venomous nor are they constrictors.
Instead, the overpower their prey and eat them alive!
They can brow to 6 feet or more. The national record
is over 8 feet.
Coachwhips come in many colors including
black and silver. Babies in the same nest may be
A myth about coachwhips is that they tie people to a tree
with their bodies and whip them with their tails. Of
course this isn't so.
To learn more about
(Photo credits: Top, Missouri
Department of Conservation; Snake on sand, Natural Estuarine
Research Reserve; Snake on rock, Cornell University; Red snake,
US Geological Survey)