Coluber flagellum

Size:  5 1/2 - 6 1/4 ft

Statewide. We have two varieties, or subspecies, of coachwhip in Oklahoma. The western coachwhip, Coluber flagellum testaceus, occurs primarily west of I-35 (Indian Meridian), but can be found in some counties east of I-35, and the eastern coachwhip, C. f. flagellum, which is found principally east of I-35. The coachwhips earn their name from due to their long, slender, tapering bodies and scalation pattern which looks like braided leather, similar to a bull whip. The western coachwhip is highly variable in color, ranging from dark brown to black anterior body, fading to lighter brown posterior, to light pinkish overall in the panhandle. The eastern coachwhip tends to be more uniform in color, still fading from dark anterior to lighter posterior. Juveniles are highly patterned and commonly confused with juvenile racers, but easily identifiable by a translucent green or bronze patterned head, whereas racers tend to have a black or brown patterned head.

Coachwhips have large forward-facing eyes giving them binocular vision, which is crucial in locating their prey in tall grass. They tend to prey on lizards, frogs, and snakes, but is opportunistic and will raid a rodent nest, and even climb trees and overhangs after a bird nest. When hunting, they usually travel swiftly through grassy areas with their heads elevated 6-8 inches above the ground. They are harmless, and are quick to retreat when threatened, but are also quick to bite when harassed.