Western Coachwhip: Masticophis Flagellum

The western coachwhip by legend and reputation is known for something it actually does not do, which is to chase humans.
Known by the scientific name masticophis flagellum, the coachwhip is a species of nonvenomous colubrid snake. They are commonly referred to as the coachwhip or the whip snake, and are endemic to the United States and Mexico. They are present in San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert.
Coachwhips are thin-bodied snakes with small heads and large eyes with round pupils. They vary greatly in color, adapting to take on the color of the soil and vegetation in which they reside as part of a natural  camouflage.
Coachwhip scales are patterned, giving  most of the snake’s exterior a braided appearance.  Adults normally range in size from fifty inches to six feet long and can be as heavy as four pounds. The largest versions of the snake can reach close to eight feet. Young snakes can weigh up to a pound and a half and are on average about three feet long.
Coachwhips are oviparous, so little or no embryonic development beyond conception occurs within the mother. Females lay eggs in early summer. The eggs hatch in 45 to 70 days.
Coachwhips are diurnal, and actively hunt and eat lizards, small birds, and rodents. They are highly weary of potential threats and, and will normally bolt at the first sign of one. They are extremely fast-moving snakes. They possess keen eyesight and will raise their heads above the level of the grass or rocks to take in what is around them.
An apocryphal myth has grown up around coachwhips, holding that they chase people. This is a falsehood that has likely been perpetuated as the result of circumstances in which both a coachwhip and a human encountered one another, became frightened simultaneously, and both took flight, just happening to move in the same direction. Because they are so fast, indeed capable of covering ground as or almost as rapidly as a human, they can give the impression of aggression should they head in the direction of someone. .
A even further fetched myth that abounds, though mostly in the Southeast, is that the snake, upon being disturbed, will chase a person down, envelope him or her in its coils, and whip the victim to death with its tail, and then make sure the recently departed is dead by sticking its tail up the victim’s nose to see if he/she is still breathing.
Actually, coachwhips are neither constrictors that dispatch their prey by suffocating with their coils nor strong enough to overpower a person. Also, they do not whip with their tails, even though their tails are long and look very much like a whips.
The snakes will bite if they make physical contact with a human and their bites can be painful, but are for the most part harmless unless the wound becomes infected.

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