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and Reptiles of California


California Striped Racer - Coluber lateralis lateralis

(Hallowell, 1853)

(= California Whipsnake - Masticophis lateralis lateralis)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Coluber lateralis California Range Map
Range in California: Red

Blue: Alameda Striped Racer



observation link





California Striped Racer
Adult, San Diego County
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
  Adult, San Diego County Adult, Santa Cruz County © Zach Lim
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
Adult, San Diego County Adult, San Diego County Adult, Kern County
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
  Sub-adult, Monterey County   Sub-adult, Tuolumne County
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
Adult, Orange County © Jeff Ahrens
Adult, Ventura County, © Patrick H. Briggs Adult, Kern County © Ryan Sikola
     
California Striped Racer
Adult, Orange County © Jeff Ahrens
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
Juvenile, Fresno County
© Patrick H. Briggs
Adult, Santa Clara County.
© Chad M. Lane
Adult, Los Angeles County
© Emily Chebul
Adult, Calaveras County.
© Chad M. Lane
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
Adult with a wide light stripe, very similar to the Alameda Striped Whipsnake subspecies, El Dorado County. © Chad M. Lane Adult, Solano County © Adam G. Clause
Adult, Orange County, © Jason Jones
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
Adult from  Alameda County within range of the Alameda Striped Racer -C. l. euryxanthus, but showing characteristics of the California Striped Racer.
© Lisa Williams
Adult, Santa Clara County, just outside the range of the Alameda Striped Racer.
© Douglas Brown
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Spencer Riffle
Adult, Butte County © Jackson Shedd
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer    
Adults, San Luis Obispo County
© Joel A. Germond
Adult, Nevada County © Valencia Orzalli    
       
Breeding
California Striped Racers      
Two adults mating in May, Santa Barbara County © Doug Campbell
     
       
Feeding
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
Mark McCormick © shot this series of a San Diego Alligator Lizard biting onto the neck of a lizard-eating California Striped Racer in San Bernardino County. After the lizard finally let go, the snake quickly raced up a steep 15 foot high cliff up into some branches. A California Striped Racer has caught a California Alligator Lizard in
El Dorado County © Jim Bennett
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
Sean Kelly © shot this series of a California Striped Racer eating a male Great Basin Fence lizard in San Diego County. A California Striped Racer swallows a male Northwestern Fence Lizard in
El Dorado County © Jim Bennett
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer northern pacific rattlesnake northern pacific rattlesnake
Lonnie Fehr discovered this adult racer trying to eat a juvenile racer in an area adjacent to a smoldering fire in the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County. A California Striped Racer eats a Coast Patch-nosed Snake in Los Angeles County, near Altadena. © David Couch
California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer California Striped Racer
A California Striped Racer, eats a juvenile Southern Pacific Rattlesnake -
Crotalus oreganus helleri
,
in Los Angeles County. © Anthony
Adult hidden in the grass with head elevated, eating a Western Fence Lizard, Sonoma County.
Red Coachwhip eating San Diego Alligator Lizard Red Coachwhip eating San Diego Alligator Lizard Red Coachwhip eating San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard
This San Diego Alligator Lizard was found biting the head of a California Striped Racer on a driveway in Riverside County. My guess is that the snake tried to eat the lizard which successfully by clamping down on the snake's head. The outcome is unknown. Mindy Langfus sent me a link to her YouTube video showing a San Diego Alligator Lizard biting onto the head of a predatory California Striped Racer in a Los Angeles County park, both of them spinning around trying to get the other one to let go.
San Diego Alligator Lizard      
A Ventura County San Diego Alligator Lizard bites onto the nose of a predatory California Striped Racer, leaving it unable to strike. Eventually the lizard released its grip and the two ran in opposite directions. © Melissa Wantz
     
     
Habitat
California Striped Racer Habitat California Striped Racer Habitat California Striped Racer Habitat California Striped Racer Habitat
Habitat, Napa County Habitat, Monterey County Habitat, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Tuolumne County Coastal San Diego County grassland habitat. © Brian Hinds
California Striped Racer Habitat northern pacific rattlesnake habitat California Striped Racer Habitat California Striped Racer Habitat
Habitat, 4,500 ft., Sierra Nevada Mountains, Kern County Habitat, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Kern County. The large crack in this rock served as a den which also contained Western Yellow-bellied Racers and Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes. Habitat, Ventura County
© Patrick Briggs
Coastal habitat, San Diego County
California Striped Racer Habitat California Striped Racer Habitat    
Habitat, San Diego County Mountains
Habitat, San Diego County mountains    
       
Short Video
California Striped Racer      
A San Diego County California Striped Racer sits on the ground, then races off into the chaparral.      
     
Description

Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous)  -  This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Size
Adults are generally 30 - 48 inches long (76 - 122 cm) occasionally reaching 60 inches (152 cm.)
Hatchlings are about 13 inches long (33 cm.)

Appearance
A long fast-moving snake with a thin body and a long thin tail, large eyes, a broad elongated head, a slender neck, and smooth scales.
Color and Pattern
Dark olive brown, gray, or black ground coloring with a pale yellow or cream colored solid stripe on each side which extends from the back of the eye to or beyond the vent.
The stripes are relatively narrow - "2 half-scale rows wide."(Stebbins)
The underside is cream or pale yellow tapering to pink toward the tail.
Young
Similar to adults.
Similar Snakes
The California Striped Racer subspecies differs from the very localized Alameda Striped Racer subspecies in having paler and narrower side stripes, a lighter back, distinct spotting under the head and neck, a dark line across the scale at the end of the nose, and an interrupted light stripe from the nose to the eye.

Comparison chart of
Coluber lateralis lateralis
- California Striped Racer, with the similar subspecies
Coluber lateralis euryxanthus - Alameda Striped Racer, and the similar species
Coluber taeniatus taeniatus - Desert Striped Whipsnake.

(The lack of a stripe down the middle of the back can help distinguish this species from several sympatric gartersnake species.)

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Diurnal, often seen actively foraging in the daytime with head and forward part of the body held up off the ground searching for prey with its acute vision.
Climbs vegetation and seeks shelter in burrows, rocks, or woody debris.
Very fast-moving and alert, quickly fleeing when threatened, this snake is difficult to get close to.
Defense
Like most racers and whipsnakes, this snake will strike repeatedly and bite viciously when threatened or handled.
Diet and Feeding
Eats lizards, small rodents, small birds, frogs, salamanders, small snakes.
Juveniles will consume large insects.
Breeding
Lays eggs in late spring or early summer which hatch in two to three months.

Habitat
Open areas in canyons, rocky hillsides, brushy chaparral, scrub, open woodlands, pond edges, stream courses.

Geographical Range
This subspecies, Coluber lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer, occurs from near Dunsmuir in Siskiyou County east to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, south along the Sierra foothills to southern California and south along the coast to near sea level, to northern Baja California. Occurs east in Southern California to the desert foothills. Absent from the far north coast, the great valley, the deserts, and elevations over 7,400 ft. (2,250 m.)

The species Coluber lateralis - Striped Racer, is found only in California and Baja California, Mexico.

Full Species Range Map
Notes on Taxonomy

North American snakes formerly placed in the genus Masticophis have been changed to the genus Coluber based on a 2004 paper * by Nagy et al. Utiger et al. (2005, Russian Journal of Herpetology 12:39-60) supported Nagy et al. and synonymized Masticophis with Coluber. This has not been universally accepted. The most recent SSAR list has hinted that the genus Masticophis might be re-instated: "Burbrink (pers. comm.) has data to reject Nagy et al.’s hypothesis but we await publication of these data before reconsidering the status of Masticophis."

Coluber lateralis is split into two subspecies -
C. l. euryxanthus - Alameda Striped Racer, and
C. l. lateralis
- California Striped Racer.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Coluber lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer (Nagy et al 2005)
Masticophis lateralis lateralis
- California Striped Racer (Stebbins & McGinnis 2012)
Masticophis lateralis lateralis - Chaparral Whipsnake (Stebbins 1985, 2003)
Masticophis lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer (Stebbins 1966)
Masticophis lateralis - California Striped Whipsnake (Stebbins 1954)
Banded Racer; Few-striped Whip Snake; Hallowell's Coachwhip Snake; Striped Racer; Striped-side Whip Snake (Wright & Wright 1957)
Masticophis lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer (Grinnel and Camp 1917)
California Racer (Van Denburgh 1897)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None.
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Coluber North American Racers, Coachwhips and Whipsnakes Linnaeus, 1758
Species lateralis Striped Racer (Hallowell, 1853)
Subspecies

lateralis California Striped Racer (Hallowell, 1853)
Original Description
Masticophis lateralis - (Hallowell, 1853) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 6, p. 237

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Coluber - Latin - coluber snake or serpent
lateralis
- Latin - of the side - referring to the lateral stripes

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Snakes
C. l. euryxanthus - Alameda Striped Racer
C. constrictor mormon - Western Yellow-bellied Racer
T. e. elegans - Mountain Gartersnake

T. hammondii - Two-striped Gartersnake
S. h. virgultea - Coast Patch-nosed Snake
M. f. piceus - Red Racer

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

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

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Bartlett, R. D. & Alan Tennant. Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co., 2000.

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

Ernst, Carl H., Evelyn M. Ernst, & Robert M. Corker. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003.

Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1957.

* Z. T. Nagy, Robin Lawson, U. Joger and M. Wink. Molecular systematics of Racers, Whipsnakes and relatives (Reptilia: Colubridae) using Mitochondrial and Nuclear Markers. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research (Volume 42 pages 223–233). 2004
Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This snake is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.


Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN

 

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