Masticophis taeniatusStriped Whipsnake

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Geographic Range

Masticophis taeniatus is found from central Texas and neighboring Mexico through Arizona and Utah to Nevada, northern California, Oregon, and southern Washington. (Stebbins 1985)

Habitat

In the southern part of its range this species is associated with open woodlands in mountainous terrain. In the north it is found in high altitude woodlands, as well as in desert scrub, grassland, and juniper-studded rangelands at the lower altitudes. Striped whipsnakes can often be found near pond and river edges where water is readily available and amphibians can be found. (Bartlett and Tenant 2000).

Physical Description

This is a slender snake with an adult length of 36 to 72 inches (90-183 cm). Dorsally the snake is typically dark brown to gray or blue, with three light stripes on each side with a color range from grey to white. The side stripe is divided by a broken to continous dark band. The dorsal scales are smooth, in fifteen rows at midbody. The anal plate is divided. (Stebbins 1985; Bartlett and Tenant 2000).

Reproduction

Females lay 3 to 12 bumpy-shelled eggs in the spring or early summer. The eggs take two to three months to hatch, and the slender young are about 14 inches long. (Stebbins 1985; Bartlett and Tenant 2000).

Behavior

This is a fast-moving and alert species. When threatened, Striped Whipsnakes will usually flee, seeking shelter in rocks, rodent burrows, or shrubs, but if cornered they often will stand their ground and strike at the intruder. Occasional specimens will lie quietly with no signs of aggression and allow themselves to be handled (Bartlett and Tenant 2000).

Food Habits

The striped whipsnake eats amphibians, smaller snakes, and lizards. Three other important prey to the whipsnake are bird nestlings, bird eggs, and rodents. This snake is an active hunter that finds its food by vision and scent trailing, although vision plays the larger role out of the two. Juvenile whipsnakes consume insects, including crickets, locusts, and cicadas. (Bartlett and Tenant 2000).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This is an aesthetically interesting snake that probably helps to control rodent numbers in rangeland.

Conservation Status

Fairly common in parts of its range, especially near water.

Other Comments

Older texts will show Schott's whipsnake and Ruthven's whipsnake as races of this species; they are now considered full species.

Contributors

Jonathon Lents (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Accessed November 18, 1999 at http://www.coloherp.org.

Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.utep.edu.

Bartlett, R., A. Tenant. 2000. Snakes of North America: Western Region. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company.

Stebbins, R. 1985. Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.