Boa Constrictor - What you need to know before you get a boa constrictor
With over 35 years of experience and hundreds of snakes, lizards and amphibians sharing these moments with us, it is safe to say, we have this kind of figured out. Some things we learned through trial and error and others through unending research. Here are some tips on what helped us understand and care for these beautiful creatures even better.
(Our blogs share general concepts, information and experiences in keeping reptiles and amphibians. Please do not use them as a definite guide. Before you obtain your animal, do thorough research or consult a veterinarian in your area.)
Don’t get confused between your constrictor boas and your boa constrictors. All boas are constrictors, but you only get one boa constrictor.
Boa constrictors have two lungs while other snakes only have one. They have not given into the whole evolution theory yet.
Would you believe me if I told you boa constrictors still have their legs? Well not exactly. They have visible remnants of where their legs used to be. Some say that it can even be used to grab onto prey as they wrap themselves around it.
Up for a game of hide and seek? Boas are ambush predators. It is in their nature to lie and wait for their unaware pray to stroll by. Be careful when you dangle your hand close to their faces, their natural instincts might just take over and they will strike.
Boas are not as quiet as you think. Their hissing can be heard over 30 meters away. Do not say you didn’t hear their warning.
Teeth and bite…
Although the boa constrictor has small teeth, these little hooks still make an impression when they grab hold of you. They do not use their teeth to chew, but rather to hold on to their food while their slow bodies start curling around their pray.
They can easily regrow teeth that has fallen out or got damaged. Even if one falls out, they still have a whole mouth full of teeth. You can count to 100 or even more teeth at a time, divided up in four rows. The outer row and the front fangs are bigger than the rest. Talk about a wide grin.
Their bites are painful, as it draws blood. But you can rest assured, it is not dangerous.
My boa is not eating…
Before you go into a panic because your boa constrictor isn’t eating, start finding the solutions with small change you can make to its enclosure. If the temperature is too cold for them, they will not eat. Check if your temperature is up to their preferred heat, if not, turn it up and try feeding him after he has heated up a bit.
Other reasons your snake might not be eating is over-handling. Not everybody wants to hear this but getting to close and personal with the animal can cause them to stress.
Did you change the boa constrictors environment? If so, just give him a bit of alone time to adapt to the new enclosure, as the move can cause stress.
One thing where snakes are a bit easier to take care of than regular pets, are the poop. They tend to go every 2 – 4 weeks. Make sure daily that the enclosure is clean of poop and urine free. Because of the heat and humidity in the enclosure, bacteria can become a big problem if you leave their fecal matter or urine in the enclosure.
Below you will find more information and in in-depth care sheet that will assist you in taking care of your boa constrictor.
- Common Name
- Scientific Name
- General information / Description
The Boa constrictor is a non-venomous snake with a slender head that you can easily differentiate compared to pythons by the lines running from its snout to the back of its head and from the snout to the eyes. They do not have fat bodies but are very muscly. In their species they are quite long. Males have a longer tail than the females.
Boas are nocturnal but can be found basking in the sun in order to build up heat for the colder nights. The Boa Constrictor is a popular snake kept as an exotic pet. Before you consider a Boa constrictor as a pet, keep in mind that they are big snakes but still a bit smaller than some python species.
There are too many being set free or even flushed down the toilet, because the owner did not realize the commitment, both in size and in finance.
- Size and life span
The average life span is around 20-30 years in captivity. Ever so often you get the odd one that will even reach 40 years.
Babies are between 40 and 50 cm at birth. Adult females can reach up to 4m for the bigger specimens. Females are bigger than the males and has more girth. The average size in captivity is around 3 meters for the females and 2.4 meters for the males. The largest recorded Boa constrictor was recorded to have been 4.45 meters (non-stretched skin without a head), in München, Germany.
Boa constrictors (large species) can easily weight up to 27kg. Females normally weight between 10-15 kg.
Boas adapt very well to captivity and can become very tame; some do however tend to be more aggressive. Some advice from us, get your boa constrictor from a young age, a baby if possible. The younger the boa, the easier it will be for you to read them when they are older. They go through a temperamental stage when they are juveniles.
- Environment / Enclosure
Swiss law – In some of the Swiss cantons, you would need to get permission from the veterinarian before you can keep a boa constrictor as a pet.
Environment - Boa constrictors are most found in throughout South America. They can be found in different environments from tropical to semidesert. They do prefer the humidity of the tropical more than the drier areas.
They tend to keep to themselves in the wild, and only meets up with other snakes when it is breeding season.
Enclosure - And, as always, golden rule with a snake enclosure, the length of the snake should be the length of the enclosure, the width and the height of the enclosure are half of the length of the snake.
Remember, Boas love the water, they are very good swimmers and enjoys to just soak themselves for hours on end. When you set up your enclosure, make sure to add a big and deep enough water pool for the snake.
For bedding we suggest a natural bedding, such as bark chipping. Something with a bit more roughness than just moss or plain sand.
Because boas like a more tropical environment, they like a bit more heat in their enclosure as what you would give to the African House Snake, for instance. Their hotspot can be between 28-30 degrees Celsius, you can go higher, but then you need to make sure that you have enough ventilation and the cold spot is not too far away. It is good to keep the terrarium on the upper humidity side than the drier side.
Cold spots can be set at 26 degrees Celsius, see, not much of a difference in temperature, even the cold spot is warmer than for the African House Snake.
Some added advise here, always have a heating pad as well as a thermostat in the enclosure. It is better to know exactly what the temperature is in the terrarium, then to estimate, 1 degree Celsius makes a huge difference for the animal.
As we said earlier, Boas are nocturnal. However, they are seen during the day, basking a bit. They prefer a good UV or LED light, but this is not necessary when you start off with your terrarium. Day come out during the day.
Lighting should always be added to any enclosure to help the animal out with the time of day, whether it is daytime or nighttime. The length of the lighting period should help them determine the season. Give them 12 hours of daylight in the summer and reduce it again during the winter periods.
- Behaviour / Nature
Boas are normally placid but some sport a personality that likes to strike. They will give you a warning first before they strike. Keep in mind that, like so many other snakes, it is better to keep your distance when they are shedding, as they tend to be a bit more temperamental during this period, mostly because it is a bit more difficult to see through the liquid build up between the old and new skin over their eyes.
It feels like we can just copy and paste our opinion about snake handling here, as we feel the same in this matter. A boa constrictor has a timid nature and will get a warning if he gets irritated by your presence. If you are the cuddly type and would like to show your boa constrictor how much you care…they do not care. Therefore, respect their space. Handle them if you must clean their enclosure, for general checkup or maintenance. But they will also appreciate it if you just let them be, as if they were still in nature. It is ultimately up to you how you want to interact with your reptile, just make sure you handle them with care, love and respect.
- Diet / Water / Vit & Min
Remember the golden rule of food; food should not be bigger than the thickest part of the snakes’ body. Boas eat mice, rats, rabbits and birds. Baby Boas can be fed weekly to 10 day. Once they are bigger you can feed then every 2 weeks. It takes around 5 days for their food to digest.
Make sure you have enough water in their enclosure, they will get in it. As mentioned above, they do like to soak. When you add water, take care that the water does not overflow into their enclosure once they are in it.
Replace or refill water every 2 days.
- Reproduction / Breeding / Sexual maturity
Boa constrictors reach their sexual maturity around 3 year. Boas mate in the drier seasons, therefore only once a year, it has been known that Boas also like to skip a year or 2 before mating again. Males will however mate with multiple females. Females will shed a couple weeks after mating. Gestation is between 6-9 months. Boas are live bearers. Litters can be between 10 - 60 young. Keep an eye on your pregnant boa, especially closer to the birthing time. Babies can be still born and there is also the chance of unfertilized eggs coming out. These are known as ‘slugs’.
Please take care when breeding and only breed if you really must. Make sure the babies will have a house to go to once they are born, remember, that can be up to 60 houses that you have to find. Please refer to the general information section regarding unwanted snakes.
- Species / Colors
Currently there are 9 different species of Boa constrictors. Boa constrictors are generally known for their autumn colors, browns, greys and creams. Throughout the years there has been changes made to the colors. The Americans took it to the next level. You can probably get up to 20 different colors if not more per species, such as Morphs and Albinos. The Boa constrictor belongs to the Boidae family.
- Health / Diseases
Boas can suffer from illnesses and ailments such as; respiratory ailment (keep a look out for an inflamed neck) as well as mites. You can treat your pet snake at home for the minor problems but rather take it to a veterinarian when you are uncertain. Many captive boas can test positive for eosinophilic inclusion bodies, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusion_body_disease. Get involved in a group or forum that shares the same passion as you for snakes and reptiles. This is also very helpful when you notice something out of the ordinary about your snake, and you are just looking for general input or advice.
Baby boas can easily shed every month, while the adults shed every 2 – 4 months. During this period, make sure to give them enough humidity to help them shed that pesky dry skin.