COMMON NAME — (1) Coachwhip, (2) Western Diamondback
SCIENTIFIC NAME — (1) Coluber flagellum, (2) Crotalus atrox
FAMILY — (1) Colubridae, (2) Viperidae
ORDER — (1) (2) Squamata
When the dogs and I spotted these snakes at the base of the porch, the Coachwhip took protective action, managing to writhe and slither, with the Rattlesnake already about halfway consumed, along the base of the house and behind a garbage pail full of rainwater.
The Coachwhip is a non-venomous snake. I had help identifying both snakes at iNaturalist.org
This is the only occasion I’ve sighted either of these snakes on this property. Other than taking some photos, we left these snakes alone. We don’t feel it is necessary or good to kill snakes we encounter on the property. We feel that snakes have their place in our one-acre eco-system just as any of the many dozens of other creatures do. I used to be terrified of snakes until I did some research. I learned that snakes, even the venomous ones, have no interest in biting anything or anyone that is not prey. My own observations have proven this to be true. Snakes always prefer to slither away and hide rather than have an encounter with us or our dogs. They only get defensive if they sense it is unsafe to flee. I do my best not to engage a close encounter with any snake. When I photograph them, it is always at a reasonable distance using a telephoto lens.
A few Details About Coachwhips and Western Diamondbacks:
Coachwhips range throughout the United States from coast to coast, and in the northern half of Mexico.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are found in the United States from central Arkansas to central and southeaster California, and south into Mexico as far down as northern Veracruz. We are located in North Central Texas.
Coachwhips are commonly found in open areas with sandy soil, open pine forests, old fields and prairies.
Western Diamondbacks have a broad range of habitats, including desert, sandy creosote areas, mesquite grassland, desert scrub, and pine-oak forests. The area on and around our property would probably best fit into the “old fields and prairies” and “mesquite grassland” and “oak forest” categories.
Coachwhips eat lizards, small birds, and rodents. And obviously rattlesnakes!
Western Diamondbacks eat many types of small mammals, birds and lizards. It is my guess that they also eat toads, which may have been what was in the belly of the one in my photos.
Other Interesting Tidbits:
Coachwhips are very sensitive to potential threats and often bolt at the first sight of one. They are extremely fast snakes. They are curious, with very good eyesight. They can sometimes be seen raising their heads above the level of grass or rocks to see what is around them. There are myths about Coachwhips which are untrue, such as them chasing people or killing people by coiling around them and squeezing. They are not constrictors nor powerful enough to overpower a human. They are non-venomous and incapable of killing a person.
Western Diamondbacks can live up to 2 years in the wild without food. If necessary, they can greatly reduce their energy expenditures and feed from within. This snake is considered and important predator of small mammals, especially those whose populations easily grow very large. These snakes are preyed upon by larger mammals and birds, such as coyotes, foxes, and hawks.