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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California





Striped Racers (Whipsnakes) found in California

 










observation link

 
Striped Racers (also known as Whipsnakes) are long, slender, fast-moving, diurnal snakes inhabiting  chaparral, scrubland, open woodlands, rocky hillsides, mostly in the foothills, but also in higher-elevation mixed woodlands. Most often found moving rapidly across the ground. Can also be found moving with the head and forward part of the body raised off the ground. Sometimes found hiding under surface objects.

Two subspecies occur in California, with the Alameda Striped Racer only occurring in isolated areas just east of the San Francisco Bay.

Two other California snake species might be confused with the Striped Racer in areas where they overlap due to their lack of a dorsal stripe, so they are shown below.



Not Dangerous
(Non-venomous, or commonly called non-poisonous) 
Striped Racers do not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

California Striped Racer (Chaparral Whipsnake) - Coluber (= Masticophis) lateralis lateralis
 
Alameda Striped Racer (Alameda Whipsnake) - Coluber (=Masticophis) lateralis euryxanthus

   
Range

Red: Coluber (Masticophis) lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer

Blue: Coluber (Masticophis) lateralis euryxanthus  - Alameda Striped Racer



Similar Whipsnake Species
Desert Striped Whipsnake Desert Striped Whipsnake Desert Striped Whipsnake
Desert Striped Whipsnake - Coluber (=Masticophis) taeniatus taeniatus
  Desert Striped Whipsnake California Range Map
 
  Red: California distribution of Desert Striped Whipsnake  
     
Similar Gartersnake Species - With No Dorsal Stripe
(All other California Gartersnakes have a dorsal stripe as well as stripes on the sides of the body.)
Two-striped Gartersnake Two-striped Gartersnake Two-striped Gartersnake
  Two-striped Gartersnake - Thamnophis hammondii
 
  Two-striped Gartersnake Range Map
 
  Red: Distribution of Two-striped Gartersnake  
     
   

Keys to the 2 Subspecies of Coluber lateralis  found in California

and a Similar Species - C. taeniatus *

  California Striped Racer
Coluber lateralis lateralis
Alameda Striped Racer
Coluber lateralis euryxanthus  
Desert Striped Whipsnake
Coluber taeniatus taeniatus
Scale Rows at Midbody 17 17 15
       
Light Lateral Stripes Narrow - 2 half-scale rows wide
Broad - 1 and 2 half-scale
rows wide
Bisected by dashes
or a black line
  California Striped Racer
California Striped Racer Desert Striped Whipsnake
     
Lateral Stripe Color Cream or yellow Orange Cream or white
  California Striped Racer Alameda Striped Racer Desert Striped Whipsnake
     
Anterior Ventral
Surface Color
Yellow Orange Cream or white
  California Striped Racer Alameda Striped Racer Desert Striped Whipsnake
     
Underside of
Head and Neck
Many black spots Unspotted or very
few spots
White motted with dark
  California Striped Racer Alameda Striped Racer Desert Striped Whipsnake
     
  Other, Less Reliable Characteristics
Light Stripe Between Eye and Nose An interrupted light stripe extends
from the nose to the eye
An uninterrupted light stripe extends
from the nose to the eye.
 
  California Striped Racer Alameda Striped Racer  
     
Dark Line Across the Nose A dark line across the scale
at the end of the nose
No dark line across the scale
at the end of the nose
 
  California Striped Racer California Striped Racer  
     
Back Color Back is olive - brown - black
Back is a dark, sooty black  
       
  California Striped Racer
Coluber lateralis lateralis
Alameda Striped Racer
Coluber lateralis euryxanthus  
Desert Striped Whipsnake
Coluber taeniatus taeniatus

* Based on information from:

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Brown, Philip R. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Gulf Publishing Co., 1997.

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Endangered Species Protection Program Description of the Alameda Whipsnake, February 2010.




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