Meet the Snake with Racing Stripes at the Alameda Creek Watershed

In the Sunol Valley, there is a special species of snake that lives in the Alameda Creek Watershed. It is no other than the Alameda whipsnake, or sometimes called the Alameda Striped Racer, (Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus), a subspecies of the California whipsnake (Masticophis lateralis). It has made the coastal scrub, chaparral, and grassland habitats in the hills east of the San Francisco Bay its habitat. 

A closeup picture of a rescued whipsnake by an SFPUC field biologist, Aaron.

Known for its ability to move fast, the Alameda whipsnake has the following distinct features: broad head, large eyes and a long slender body with a distinct yellow-orange “racing stripe” down each side. Adults can grow to six feet long. They are diurnal which means that they are active mainly during the day. Surprisingly good climbers, these snakes seem to prefer to hunt for lizards, snakes, and frogs. They are not venomous and pose no threat to humans.

All of the workers on SFPUC-related construction projects in the Sunol Valley have been trained to be on the look out for these special snakes. If they see one, they stop what they are doing, and contact a trained biologist to rescue them to a safer location.

A closeup picture of a rescued whipsnake by an SFPUC field biologist, Aaron.

November is the time of year when they look for a dry, safe burrow to hibernate during the winter. The springtime is when courtship and mating takes place, usually from late-March through mid-June. 

Alameda whipsnakes are considered to be both a federally and state threatened species. When passing through the Sunol Valley this fall, visitors should be on the lookout for these special snakes.