One of the largest snakes in America, the coachwhip is found across the southern part of the US and northern Mexico, where it mainly occupies arid habitats. The coachwhip is perhaps the fastest snake in North America, being able to race away over the ground at about 13 kmh (8 mph). It uses its speed to escape danger, but when foraging, the coachwhip snake moves slowly so as to not alert its prey, which includes grasshoppers, cicadas and other large insects, as well as lizards, small snakes and rodents. It keeps its head raised off the ground as it hunts, so that it can track prey by smell and sight.
This long, smooth, uniformly brown snake resembles a thick whip. Individuals in the eastern parts of the range, where the soil is less sandy, have darker bodies.
When under threat itself, the coachwhip snake slithers up trees or into mammal burrows to escape. If cornered, it coils up and vibrates its tail to mimic a venomous rattler. It also bites its attacker repeatedly, often aiming for the face - behaviour that led early observers to believe that the snake killed its prey by whipping them to death.
Distribution: S. United States and N. Mexico.
Habitat: Desert, scrubland and open woodland, and rocky areas.
Food: Birds, rodents, lizards, other snakes and insects.
Size: 90 - 260 cm (35.5 - 102 in).
Breeding: Mating occurs in spring, egg-laying in summer.
Life span: 16 years.
Status: Lower risk.