Boa Constrictor Facts
Size: 5 – 13ft
Lifespan: 20 – 25 years
Wild Population: 50,000+
Primary Colour: Brown, Black & Red Tail
Habitat: South-East United States, Most of South America.
Difficulty of Keeping: Moderate (experience a previous snake is ideal).
Optimum environment Temperature: 90°F hotspot with ambient temp of 85°F
What do they eat? Mice, Rats, birds, Lizards and eggs.
Purpose: Boa constrictors are not the most active snake, they are ambush predators which lay and wait for the perfect chance to snatch prey as it passes.
Eggs or Live birth: Live baring snake.
Venomous: None venomous/ None poisonous
Are they kept in captivity? Boa constrictors are widely kept in the captivity but due to their large size and with potential to get to a heavy weight are recommended as 2nd or beyond pet snakes.
Ease of keeping as a pet: The husbandry requirements are simple for a boa, they also tend to tolerate handling well but there are some which do not like being handled and will startle a new keeper.
Cost: Ranges between $50 – $1,000’s dependant on morph (colour)
Boa Constrictor Overview
A boa constrictor was first described in 1758. For a long time, people perceived these snakes as jungle monsters attacking travellers.
Then, when they realized the value of their skin, they started regarding them only as a source of luxury material for extravagant accessories.
However, today the attitude towards boas has changed and more and more people prefer them as pets.
Boas are one of the most popular snakes around the globe.
This love occurs for a reason – they have an ideal size, bright and beautiful colour, as well as calm disposition.
In other words, this is a snake without flaws. A boa constrictor is appealing for both novice reptile keepers and experienced herpetoculturists.
Boa Constrictor Appearance
Boa constrictors are not as large as, for example, adult tiger pythons.
They have a strong muscular body topped with a small arrow-shaped head.
Most snakes kept in captivity rarely exceed 2 meters in length.
In natural habitats, however, boa constrictor size varies from 1 to 4 meters depending on the locality, while their weight ranges between 1 and 15 kilograms.
Typically, boa’s scale pattern consists of spots and stripes.
The colour scheme varies widely from a modest grey-brown in species leading a land-based lifestyle to bright contrasting colours in wood boas.
Species that spend most of the time in the soil are generally monochromatic.
The most widespread species have a light-coloured skin adorned with contrasting ‘saddles’ on the back.
They feature more pronounced tails decorated with brown and red splashes. Such snakes are known as red-tailed boas.
On their heads, the snakes carry two ‘signature’ stripes: one runs from the mouth to the nape while the other stretches from the eyes to the jaw. This camouflage colouring helps snakes get lost among the branches and tree bark. Neither other predators, nor prey will be able to see a lurking boa.
At the same time, captive reptiles often have non-traditional colouring (such as, for example, albino boas). They are bred intentionally to create various colour morphs.
The teeth of boas are moderately long, and the jaws are incredibly strong.
Striking at the prey, the snake holds it with the teeth while its body squeezes it in a deadly embrace.
Boa Constrictor Health Check
When buying a boa, you need to carefully look at its skin – it shouldn’t have shed stick stuck in place.
Its anus area ought to be clean and the eyes – clear. When you pick up a healthy boa, it begins to actively move its tongue.
Like pythons, boas have pelvic spurs – claws located on both sides of the anus.
They are the vestigial remains of the hind legs. In males, these spurs are longer than in females.
The appearance of males and females is slightly different. For example, males have a bulge at the base of the tail – this is where a pair of hemipenes are located.
Their tail is thick and strong, of a conical shape. Females have shorter tails without thickening.
As for the size, females look powerful and intimidating, they are larger and wider in girth. The colour of females is dull while males feature more saturated hues.
Boa constrictor habitat extends from Central to South America, including numerous islands of the Caribbean.
The range runs from Argentina in the south and up to the north of Mexico.
The reptile occupies various natural landscapes, but most subspecies prefer tropical rainforests and dense bush.
Boa constrictor most often settles near swamps and reservoirs, although some populations have adapted to live in savannas and semi-deserts.
In mountainous areas, you can meet constrictors at altitudes up to 1000 m above sea level.
When arranging a vivarium, it is vital to recreate the natural habitat.
Boas are excellent tree climbers, so you need to install branches, vines, and climbing shelves.
In addition, boas like swimming. To pamper your pet, you can equip a small pool in its house.
Boa constrictor as a pet
Boas are nocturnal and twilight animals. In the wild, they take long sunbaths before going hunting.
They need it to warm up and stay active on a cool night. When you keep a boa constrictor as a pet, you should provide it with conditions close to its natural environment.
Its vivarium should have a place where it can bask in the heat.
Boas are famous for their phlegmatic character and friendly disposition.
They rarely attack people. They simply cannot swallow such a huge prey; therefore, they are not interested in it.
If a boa senses danger, it may strike and bite. It will be painful but not dangerous because constrictors are not venomous.
After you purchase boa, start accustoming it to yourself. Take it in your hands carefully.
At first, it may avoid and hiss. Be persistent and gentle. 2 – 3 times weekly contact with a boa helps build a trusting relationship.
When dealing with a boa constrictor, it is not advisable to make sudden movements.
If a snake wraps around your arm or neck, grab it by the tail and carefully begin to unwind (do not try to unwind it from the head as the snake may be stronger than you).
Boa Constrictor Enclosure
Young species are kept in completely transparent vivarium’s. Their approximate size is 120 x 60 x 60 cm. They should be well vented.
For this, there must be holes in the back wall as well as gaps between the sliding doors. The enclosure should have a lid that closes on top – boas tend to run away from their homes.
When your pet turns about two years old, it can be relocated to a frame vivarium.
You can fabricate it on your own from wood and glass or plexiglass. In this case, the back wall and the bottom can be made opaque. The remaining walls should be clear.
You can provide ventilation through openings in the rear wall and gaps between the windows. The size of vivarium for adult boas should be at least 150 x 90 x 90 cm.
If you have a couple of pets, it’s best to increase their enclosure to 225 x 150 x 200 cm.
As a substrate, you can use paper towels since they are easy to remove and replace with new ones when they become dirty.
On paper, it is easy to notice ticks if they have appeared and control the quality of fecies. For grown-up pets, instead of paper, you can use Astroturf or split cypress, spruce bark, coconut bark, moss sphagnum, or rugs made of artificial materials.
Pine and cedar sawdust are a no-go because it sticks to food and can get into the mouth and respiratory tract, thereby creating many health problems for the boa.
The wet and dirty substrate should be removed as quickly as possible to prevent fungi and bacteria growth.
In enclosures where large snakes are kept, do not plant greenery as animals will break and crush any kind of vegetation. It is not recommended scattering sharp stones since your boa can get hurt.
A boa’s vivarium should have hidden places where it can lie low.
For this purpose, you can use logs, empty cardboard boxes, opaque plastic containers, etc. Everything that is easy to replace and clean will do.
Most boas love to hang on branches, so do not forget to place thick sticks capable of supporting their weight.
The branches must be decontaminated and freed of bark. If you use stones and bricks to build a cave, make sure that they are firmly bonded as boas are very strong and can easily destroy such a shelter.
On top of that, you can install a container of water so that your pet can take baths.
Temperature and humidity
The ideal ambient temperature in the vivarium is 28-32 degrees Celsius.
In the heating area, the temperature can reach up to 32-35 degrees. At night, the temperature can’t drop below 26-30 degrees.
The warm side can be arranged with a heating pad, which is located under the half of a cage.
Instead of a heating pad, some owners use incandescent lamps placed on the top (make sure your boa can’t touch them, otherwise it may get burned).
All snakes are very susceptible to burns; for this reason, you can’t utilize hot stones to heat the enclosure.
To measure the temperature, you will need two thermometers.
The first one is placed about 2.5 cm above the substrate in the cool end of the vivarium.
The second one is installed at the same height in the basking spot. To illuminate the enclosure, you can use full-spectrum UV lamps.
Boas prefer a humid climate. You can create the necessary conditions by daily spraying the enclosure with warm water.
Special sprinklers and foggers with time setting will do nicely as well.
After buying a young boa constrictor, give it two weeks to acclimatize to a new home.
During this time, give it one 10-day-old rat (the rodent must be dead). Smaller boas usually munch on mice while large snakes prefer grown-up rats.
The rule of thumb in feeding boas is that the size of food should not be larger than the widest part of the snake.
Healthy boas have an excellent appetite. Together with a sedentary lifestyle, this can lead to obesity.
Feeding boas in captivity, as a rule, is not difficult. They willingly eat any rodents and small chickens.
However, you must remember that if a boa has been fed one type of food for a long time it may refuse to eat altogether.
These reptile pets easily eat thawed feed. However, you should be very careful when feeding boas, especially young individuals.
Boas have a rather delicate digestive tract. Frequent feeding or large meals, as well as underheated or overheated food, can provoke a burp.
It is extremely undesirable since boas hardly recover after it. This is probably the only weak point in keeping boas as pets.
New-born boas are given one mouse in 7-10 days. As they grow, they eat two mice once in 14 days.
At the age of about 1 year, you can start giving your snake one young rat pup every 10-14 days.
Adult females are fed one time in 3 weeks with 2 large rats while males are given one large rat once every 3 weeks.
If kept on a balanced diet, boas do not need vitamins. Healthy boas can be given supplements no more than 1-2 times a year on the mating season or during pregnancy.
Keep in mind that your boa should always be supplied with fresh water inside its cage. It will drink and swim in it.
Water needs to be changed every day as it quickly gets dirty. Before moulting, you can offer your pet a warm bath.
If you properly care for your reptile pet, provide it with an appropriate diet, and keep it in an environment close to its natural habitat, it will stay with you for at least 20-30 years.
The longest documented lifespan in captivity was just over 40 years.
Fun Facts About Boa Constrictors
- Boas strangle their victims by wrapping around their chest. A snake constricts its rings when a pray exhales. After 2-3 exhalations, the victim has no air left in the lungs and it begins to suffocate.
- Boas, like other reptiles, are cold-blooded animals, i.e. their body temperature depends on the ambient temperature. The activity of boas depends on the same. The higher the temperature, the more active they are. The best way to calm your boa constrictor down is to lower the temperature in the enclosure.
- Boas differ from other snakes in their ability to hunt at zero visibility. They have temperature-sensitive receptors located between the eyes and nostrils. These organs can determine the heat emanating from the alleged victim at a considerable distance in complete darkness. As a result, boas hunt at night as effectively as during the day.
- Boas use the tongue to collect particles present in the air, while their nostrils are only for breathing.
When a snake draws its tongue inward, the particles are absorbed by special cavities in the mouth. In such a way, constrictors perceive smells.
Other great snakes to consider are corn snakes, king snakes or alternatively check out our list of snake care sheets for inspiration.
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