While most snakes are not to our liking, there is one type of snake that might change how we perceive them: The Red Racer.

These fast-moving serpents can be found in North America and sometimes make their way into residential areas – where they’re known for being among the fastest creatures on earth!

A typical shade range from red (or pink) through tan or brown; however because these animals have such striking colors it’s hard not notice them when racing across an open landscape at speed.

The non-venomous Coluber flagellum piceus or Masticophis flagellum pisceus is also commonly referred to as a red coachwhip snake, western whip-, or just plain old “coach” among herpetologists.

This species can be found across North America from southern Canada all the way down into Arizona, where it becomes more desert-like in nature due to its location near some large deserts such as The Sonora And California’s the Mojave Desert which has been home for many types of wildlife.

SpeciesM. flagellum piceus

Table of Contents

Quick Facts of Red Racer

Scientific NameMasticophis flagellum piceus
Average size90-260 cm
HabitatOpen areas with sandy soil, open pine forests, old fields, and grasslands
DistributionSouthern California, Arizona, and Nevada in the United States, Baja California and Sonora in Mexico, and the Mojave desert
FoodHorned Lizard, small mammals, birds in the nest
Life Span13 years
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Description of Red racer snake

The Red Racer Snake is typically one of the more colorful snakes you’ll find, with bright colors that reflect its natural habitat. They can vary significantly in color, but most have patterns appropriate for hiding from prey or escaping predators, depending on where they live!

It typically has a shade of light brown with darker brown spots, but in northern America, where the ground color is a shade of pink or red, the snake is also pink or red. 

The red racer snake is a diminutive yet active species with large eyes and pupils that can be seen from miles away. They have an adapted coloration to blend in perfectly at their natural habitat’s Billy butt garden or flowerbeds!

Its left lung is atrophied, and the right lung is extended to the tail and has an air sac at its posterior end. This sac is used when it swallows its prey since it cannot breathe.

The red racer snake can be from medium to longer sizes ranging from 90 to 260 cm. The snake can move up to 5.6 km per hour and disappear in a blink of an eye.

The snake’s scales are patterned with a braided appearance. It is sometimes referred to as a red coachwhip snake because its tail’s scales appear braided like a whip.

Distribution and Habitat

brown colored red racer snake coiling around rocks
Brown-colored red racer snake

The whip snake is commonly found in geographic ranges with open pine forests, grasslands, sandy soil, and old fields. They live in sandy thickets and coastal dunes. 

The snake likes to avoid the forest areas as much as possible, but it takes refuge in the forest during the great summer heat.

Like many snake species, it hides under rocks, fallen tree trunks and basks in the sun to regulate its body temperature. 

A rotting log, stumps, animal burrows, compost piles, and under the rock are perfect secure sites for females to lay eggs.

In winter, the red racer hibernates below the frost line in rock crevices, caves, or human-built structures such as old foundations. 

Feeding Habit of Red Racer Snake

These snakes are diurnal, hunting and preying on lizards, small birds, and rodents. The whip snake subdues its prey by grasping and holding it in its jaws and does not use constriction. The adult red racer snake is also capable of eating a live rattlesnake.

A red racer snake tends to be sensitive to potential threats and will often flee at the first sign of one; they are incredibly fast-moving snakes.

They are curious snakes with good eyesight and are sometimes seen raising their heads above grass or rock level to see their surroundings. 


The potential predators of red whip snakes include California kingsnakes, raccoons, striped skunks, possums, coyotes, and gray foxes.

Introducing pet animals and cane toads also threaten snakes native to the United States, such as Eastern coachwhip and other American snakes. Besides, Eastern subspecies are well affected by agricultural land use and urbanization.


red racer snake with black strips
Red racer snake with black stripe

Mating takes place in early June; reproduction is oviparous. The female lays 4-20 eggs directly on the ground, in the layer of leaves or moist and soft vegetation, rotting, or sometimes in the rotten hollows of old trees.

The eggs hatch in August-September, and the small snakes are about 33 cm long at first.

They reach sexual maturity after 3-4 years of life; the development speed also depends on the food they find and consume.

Unlike the adult snake, the young snake lacks the black bands on its neck and preys on small invertebrates like insects, scorpions, and spiders. 

Red Racer Snake Behavior

The red racer snake is diurnal that is commonly seen foraging during the day. When foraging, the head and front half of the body is kept off the ground for optimal viewing when searching for prey. 

The snake has two seasonal peaks of activity, one during the spring season and the other in late summer or early fall.

The spring is the season for males to search for foraging mates. Meanwhile, the females remain hibernated as their peak search for oviposition sites usually lasts only a few days.

When the red racer finds prey, it takes the prey quickly, holding it tightly under the loops of its body and swallowing it whole without constriction.

They are great climbers and can move quickly through trees and shrubs to hunt prey. Like all reptiles, these snakes are also cold-blooded.

They move from side to side when hunting. They are pretty aggressive when cornered or provoked. They vibrate their tail and attack repeatedly. 

The interesting fact about this snake is it can fake death in danger. It is rare among snakes, with few species such as the Hognose snake performing such action. 

These common reptiles of coachwhip species (Flagellum Ruddocki) are often associated with a Hoop snake. These nonvenomous snakes do not curl into a whip, so these aggressive predators are far from being mystical Hoop snakes.

Conservation Status

The red racer snake has a wide distribution and is very common in this range. The population is stable and faces no significant threats other than roadkill and harassment.

The IUCN red list (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has rated its conservation status as “least concern.”

Are Red racer snakes a threat to humans?

western coachwhip snake with brown pink stripped roaming around open scarcely grassed area
Western Coachwhip Snake

The whip snake belongs to the Colubridae family; it is not poisonous and therefore does not represent a threat to human life.

However, there is a myth that this snake chases people, which is false. What happens is that this snake is very fast, and sometimes, when cornered by a person, it seeks to flee in the same direction that the person is. So it creates a false sense that the whip snake is attacking.

Another myth arises from rural areas in the southern United States, in which it is narrated that the whip snake is capable of wrapping itself around the person and whipping him to death and then sticks his tail through the victim’s nose to make sure he dies. 

It is false that this snake is incapable of constricting since it lacks strength, and although its body looks like a whip, it is not capable of whipping with its tail.

Action to take when spotted

If you spot this snake, do not attack it with sticks or stones, it will not attack you unless you disturb it. All snakes are poisonous or harmless as these only attack to defend themselves. 

If you see that the snake retracts its body and opens its mouth, move away slowly since it has already perceived you as a threat and is preparing to attack.

It would be best if you remembered that snakes control the populations of insects and rodents, and although their presence can arouse fear, control yourself and do not kill them.

If you see a whip snake or any other species, keep a safe distance to avoid provoking it. If you encounter one of these racer snakes in your yard, you can leave it alone as it is harmless.

Snakes would often enter homes searching for mice if they came to your house because there are prey for it.

If you have difficulty keeping snakes away, you can modify the perimeter fence by placing a metal sheet against the fence at an angle greater than 30 degrees so the snake cannot go over it. In addition, you must keep the patio free of weeds; thus, the snake will not have hiding places.

You can observe this beautiful snake in the wild without harming it with these simple measures. If you share territories with this or any other snake species, you can minimize the probability of having an unwanted encounter and possible incidents.

Human threat to the red racer snake

Red Racer Snake climbing walls

The biggest threat to the red racer snake is human impact. One of the biggest threats to the red whip snake is habitat loss due to urban expansion.

Road and highway construction has increased, making the snake vulnerable to extinction. While urban development isn’t directly ruining the habitat, adjacent development can also significantly impact. 

Being around people can increase the likelihood of being hunted by wild pets or killed by the public during recreational activities. 

Another human impact is fire control efforts, as they can alter habitat in two significant ways. It increases the likelihood of catastrophic fires in vegetated habitats and would lead to a build-up of combustible fuel in shrubland. 

Pest control operations near its habitat by Animal control also introduce rodenticides, fumigants, herbicides, and pesticides that directly harm the red whip snake.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does a red racer snake look like?

The red racer snake has red, pink, brown, or tan scales with distinctive whip-like scales on the tail. The scale is braided with black stripes in the neck area.

How fast is the red racer snake?

The red racer snake can move at a speed of 3.5 miles per hour (5.6km/hr). Its speed might increase when running away from predators.

How to take care of a baby red racer snake?

The red racer snake baby requires 45-70 days of the incubation period. The snake is a carnivore, so its feed must include meat items or small mammals like rodents.

What is the difference between coachwhip and red racer snake?

The red racer snake is the subspecies of coachwhip snake that got its name from color and speed. In North America, this species of coachwhip is among the fastest snake.

At what age the red racer snake reaches 5 feet?

We can’t say precisely the age of the red racer snake without any analysis as its length varies from 90-260 cm as an adult. If we consider the maximum length of an adult as 260 cm, a 5 feet snake is definitively not an adult or 8-9 years old. The snake can be 4-5 years old at 5 feet in length.

Although the red racer snake is not threatened, protecting its habitat and restoring sites for upcoming vulnerability events is essential. 

The simple conservative action can maximize the diversity of native plants and insects, thereby improving the habitat for red racer snakes and other species.

(Last Updated on September 4, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Sadrish Dawadi is a Mountain Ecologist, an expert on the impact of climate change on humans, animals, and plant species. As an activist for animal welfare, he believes an animal's eyes can speak a great language of the planet's state and environmental condition.