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Striped whipsnake

Page history last edited by PBworks 11 years, 10 months ago

 Masticophis taeniatus




                         Striped Whipsnake







Kindom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Colubridae

Genus: Masticophis

Species: taeniatus

Subspecies: taeniatus (desert striped whipsnake)







Striped Whipsnakes are usually black, dark brown or gray with smooth scales. They have a centered stripe on each dorsal scaled row and smaller black stripes that separate their main stripes. Lateral stripes are ususally a cream to yellowish color and get more white towards the head. The underside of the tail is usually coral pink and their eyes contain round pupils. Whipsnakes have a small scale on the top of their head called the preocular, which is wedged between two other scales and is located in front of their eyes. They also have large scales on their head that are edged in white. Striped Whipsnakes get their name because they are very long and slender and move with high speed motions "whip like". The normal size of a Whip snake is 30-72 inches or 3 to 6 feet long. Young whip snakes are about 15 inches long. Male whip snakes mature faster then the females.




The Striped Whipsnake occurs from south central Washington south in Great Basin between Cascade-Sierran crest and Continental Divide through Eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, far eastern California, Nevada, Utah, eastern Colorado, north-central Arizona, western New Mexico, and West Texas.






Striped Whipsnakes usually live in dry habitats, including desert and dry forests. In Idaho they occur in dry valleys and plateaus. Often habituate shrublands, grasslands, sagebrush flats, canyons, and open pine-oak forests. Attracted to rocky stream courses and they often seek shelter in rock outcrops , rodent burrows, and in trees and shrubs. Retreats underground or into deep crevices in cold weather.





 Photo by Charles R. Peterson,©1998.Ean Harker, © 2000





Photo by Charles R. Peterson,©1998.Ean Harker, © 2000




Striped whipsnakes are fast, active daytime hunters. They have good vision and are difficiult to approach. When cornered they will strike fiercely, and repeatingly. They eat lizards, small rodents, and birds including their eggs. While hunting, they often raise the head off the ground and move it from side to side. This is called triangulation, and helps them get better depth perception. They are also very good climbers and will often try to escape predators by climbing into shrubs and trees. Whipsnakes sometimes make seasonal movements or migration of up to 3.6 km or 2.2 miles. Male whipsnakes defend a small area around a female during the mating period.








Striped Whipsnakes typically breed in early spring using abandoned rodent burrows as nesting sites. Females lay between 3-12 eggs in communal nests in June or July. The young hatch in late summer and are about 15 inches long. Males mature faster than females and reach breeding age in two years, and the females in three years. Courtship involves the males rubbing different portions of the female's body with his head and neck. This occurs soon after emergence from hibernation in the spring.


Scientific Study:


Tests were done on Striped Whipsnakes in Western Utah to see if they were capable of finding their hibernaculum or "dening sites" after they were placed at certain distances away. The purpose of this study was to determine the whipsnake's homing capability, or the capability of the snakes to return to their hibernaculum after displacement. A den consisting of a pile of cobblestones that had crevices leading underground was used in the experiment because it was frequently used by whip snakes for hibernation. It was the only major denning site in the area, used mostly by Striped Whipsnakes.




The mouth of the den was enclosed with wire screen supported by wooden stakes. There was a closed perimeter of 140 m outside the den. The fence was buried a little ways in the ground and stood 83 cm high. Funnel and can traps were placed outside the fence to capture the snakes as they attempted to enter the den. The den was then checked each day as the study was in progress. Striped Whipsnakes were placed at various distances to determine their homing ability. They were usually released in an opposite direction or a opposite side of the mountain as their capture. Some were relocated more then once.  All of the whipsnakes used in this experiment were adults. The tests were taken in late September and early October because this was the peak period of when the Striped Whipsnakes denned for hibernation.




There were many variabilties to this scientific experiment because some of the snakes could have climed over the fence without being captured or found their way threw some dismantled parts in the fence. It is also possible that some of the snakes displaced in the experiment might not have survived the winter in the dens. The results of the experiment however were that 14 of the 20 whipsnakes recorded returned to their dens after displacement. That is pretty good odds and very good homing by Striped Whipsnakes. A majority of snakes that were placed 50 m from the den and recaptured in Autum returned to the den in one or two days. One female whip snake that was placed 100 m from the den was recovered at the hibernaculum 39 days later. One male whip snake  was replaced 3 times at a distance of 50 m. The first two times he returned to the den in one or two days. The third time there was no recording of him but he did emerge from the den in the spring. Then there were some snakes that when displaced 50 m away from the den more then once did not return the second time and there is no recording of them ever emerging from the den





California Reptiles and Amphibians. CaliforniaHerps.com. © 2000 - 2008.



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Digital-Desert:Mohave Desert. Copyright ©Walter Feller.



Masticophis taeniatus. Striped Whipsnake.

Design optimization and revision by Ean Harker ©1999, 2000

Original images provided by Charles R. Peterson and John Cossel Jr. ©1998

Original work by John Cossel Jr. © 1998



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

The Ability of Two Species of Snakes to Return to a Hibernaculum after Displacement

Harold F. Hirth

The Southwestern Naturalist, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Mar. 30, 1966), pp. 49-53

Published by: Southwestern Association of Naturalists



Created by: Daniel Madel




























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