Cannibal Coachwhips?

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
zeevng
Posts: 39
Joined: April 27th, 2013, 7:46 pm
Contact:

Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by zeevng »

Hi all!

Came across some weird behavior in Masticophis flagellum last spring, been meaning to see if anyone has seen something like this before.
When I walked up on them, I thought they were both dead initially, but upon further inspection, they were both alive, though weak and dehydrated it seemed. Very carefully and slowly detached them from each other, gave some water, and moved to the shade of a nearby bush.
IMG_20200402_161317.jpg
IMG_20200402_161355.jpg
Came back after about an hour on my way out, and only the juvie was still there, almost fully recovered and took off when I got close.

Thoughts on what's going on here? Off the top of my head I figured the adult was trying to predate the juvie, but there were no wounds, bites or anything else along the body to indicate he'd latched on elsewhere first.
Maybe they both went for the same prey item and ended up locked on each other? Not sure, but definitely haven't seen something like this before.

Found in Riverside County, CA.
IMG_20200402_162205.jpg
IMG_20200402_162233.jpg
IMG_20200402_161432.jpg
IMG_20200402_161419.jpg
IMG_20200402_161719.jpg

User avatar
Porter
Posts: 2161
Joined: March 19th, 2011, 6:43 pm

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by Porter »

Rad encounter dude 8-) :thumb: All I have is a similar story that may or may not shed some insight. One time I was cruising Fresno county and noticed coachwhip coloration in my peripheral vision. I flipped around to check it out and it was a long deceased San Joaquin coach and CA king mummified-looking intertwined battle scene of corpses. The coachwhip was far larger than the king and was still halfway down a hole in the side of a dirt cut. The kingsnake was fully exposed and tightly twisted around a root bunch that was protruding from the side of the cut. Now that I think about it, they could have been underground originally... and dirt broke off and collapsed. Exposing the roots of the bush that sat atop the hillside. They were locked up face to face (neck to neck to be more accurate) like your photos and if I remember correctly, the necks were twisted together. Choking and biting each other. I had a photo but accidently deleted it years ago. I went out there the following weekend with Chad Lane and pointed it out to him (he may have a photo, idk). But, my guess is that the larger snake went down a hole... just as the smaller snake was leaving the hole... and all hole broke loose.

User avatar
Porter
Posts: 2161
Joined: March 19th, 2011, 6:43 pm

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by Porter »

It looked something like this:

ImageUntitled by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

...Except they were much more wrinkly and prune/raisin looking.

User avatar
Jeff
Posts: 554
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 5:01 am
Location: Louisiana

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by Jeff »

I encountered a similar dilemma between two Speckled King Snakes in Louisiana. Differing from your case, the kings' mouths were locked sideways. like a handshake, rather than inverted. Also, the kings being constrictors, the two were locked into a tight ball that was dissembled only when I tossed them into water. I assumed that this was a case of intraspecies depredation.

Red Racers aren't constrictors, but I at least would assume that they would have used their coils to try to disengage themselves. As you stated, though, they were weak, so may have given up on that travail.

Coachwhips are known cannibals (Ernst, C.H. & Ernst, E.M. (2003) Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Books, Washington, xi+668).

Jeff

User avatar
Jeff
Posts: 554
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 5:01 am
Location: Louisiana

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by Jeff »

Oh, and Porter, the 'X"s through the eyes in your illustration exemplified graphic humor. Well done! Without extensive verbiage, I was able to conclude that both were dead.
Jeff

AEthelred
Posts: 43
Joined: July 16th, 2019, 9:56 am
Location: North Adams,Massachusetts

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by AEthelred »

Were seeing more and more snakes eating snakes that weren't previously known for eating snakes

User avatar
Scott Waters
Site Admin
Posts: 682
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:08 am
Contact:

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by Scott Waters »

Masticophis are well documented snake eaters.

User avatar
zeevng
Posts: 39
Joined: April 27th, 2013, 7:46 pm
Contact:

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by zeevng »

Porter wrote:
January 29th, 2021, 11:14 pm
It looked something like this:

ImageUntitled by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

...Except they were much more wrinkly and prune/raisin looking.
Porter,

That's an incredible find! :D And your artwork is bringing it right back to, well, not life exactly, but something close! :lol:

The general consensus seems to be that the adult tried predating the juvie, and the juvie got lucky and latched on the the adult's jaw. Since they aren't constrictors, they just thrashed around for a while, weakening them, until I came along.
Weird, cool find, for sure! Glad I was herping when I was, they probably didn't have more than a couple hours left in them!

User avatar
Porter
Posts: 2161
Joined: March 19th, 2011, 6:43 pm

Re: Cannibal Coachwhips?

Post by Porter »

Jeff wrote:
January 30th, 2021, 4:29 pm
Oh, and Porter, the 'X"s through the eyes in your illustration exemplified graphic humor. Well done! Without extensive verbiage, I was able to conclude that both were dead.
Jeff
Lol Thanks Jeff :thumb: It's fun to scribble out a visual aid when the opportunity presents itself. Glad you liked it!

zeevng wrote:
February 1st, 2021, 7:07 am
Porter,

That's an incredible find! :D And your artwork is bringing it right back to, well, not life exactly, but something close! :lol:
Thanks man :thumb: I wish I had the photo to show you! It was a pretty interesting piece of serpent battle history.

Awesome job reviving those two after breaking up the fight :thumb:

Post Reply