Coluber lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer
Considered harmless to humans.
Adults are generally 30 - 48 inches long (76 - 122 cm) occasionally reaching 60 inches (152 cm.) Hatchlings are about 13 inches long (33 cm.)
A fast-moving snake with a long thin body and tail, a broad elongated head, large eyes, a slender neck, and smooth scales. Dark brown to black with a pale yellow or cream solid stripe on each side which extends from the back of the eye to or beyond the vent. The stripes are relatively narrow - "2 half-scale rows wide."(Stebbins) The underside is cream or pale yellow tapering to pink toward the tail.
Behavior and Natural History
Diurnal, often seen actively foraging in the daytime with head and forward part of the body held up off the ground searching for prey with its acute vision. Climbs vegetation and seeks shelter in burrows, rocks, or woody debris. Very fast-moving and alert, quickly fleeing when threatened, this snake is difficult to get close to. May strike repeatedly and bite viciously when threatened or handled. Sometimes kept in a terrarium in an artificial habitat of wood chips and fake plants.
Eats lizards, small rodents, small birds, frogs, salamanders, small snakes. Juveniles will consume large insects.
Lays eggs in late spring or early summer which hatch in two to three months.
This subspecies, Coluber lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer, occurs from near Dunsmuir in Siskiyou County east to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, south along the Sierra foothills to southern California and south along the coast to near sea level, to northern Baja California. Occurs east in Southern California to the desert foothills. Absent from the far north coast, the great valley, the deserts, and elevations over 7,400 ft. (2,250 m.)
The species Coluber lateralis - Striped Racer, is found only in California and Baja California, Mexico.
Open areas in canyons, rocky hillsides, brushy chaparral, scrub, open woodlands, pond edges, stream courses. \
North American snakes formerly placed in the genus Masticophis have been changed to the genus Coluber based on a 2004 paper * by Nagy et al. Utiger et al. (2005, Russian Journal of Herpetology 12:39-60) supported Nagy et al. and synonymized Masticophis with Coluber. This has not been universally accepted. The most recent SSAR list has hinted that the genus Masticophis might be re-instated: "Burbrink (pers. comm.) has data to reject Nagy et al.’s hypothesis but we await publication of these data before reconsidering the status of Masticophis."