The Boa Constrictor
Königsboa, Königsschlange, Abgottschlange, Amerikanische Boa (German)
Species: boa constrictor.
Subspecies: B. c. constrictor, B.c.amarali, B.c. imperator, B. c. longicauda, B. c. mexicana, B. c. nebulosa, B. c. occidentalis, B. c. orophias, B. c. ortonii, B. c. sabogae. Interspecies hybrids occur.
The boa constrictor is native to South America where it is widely spread. It is mainly found in Brazil, Mexico, Columbia and Bolivia and on the nearby islands. It lives in a wide variety of conditions, including woodland, rainforest, prairies, shores of rivers, lakes and seas, mangrove forests etc. They can be found near the people’s residences too, they are often kept instead of cats to catch rodents. The boa constrictor prefers locations near the water. It is a good swimmer.
The boa constrictor has been introduced to Florida.
B. c. constrictor lives in the east of Ecuador, the north and the east of Peru, the north of Bolivia and Brazil, the central and eastern Columbia, Venezuela, Guiana, Trinidad and Tobago. B. c. amarali can be found in eastern Bolivia, in some Brazilian states incl. Rio de Janeiro and San Paolo. B. c. longicauda is native to Mexico, Beliz, Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, the north-west of Columbia. B. c. Mexicana is endemic to Mexico. B. c. Nebulosa can be found on the island of Dominica.
B. c. occidentalis lives in Paraguay and Argentina. B. c. orophias is endemic to Santa Lucia. B. c. Ortonii is found in the south-west of Peru and
B. c. sabogae is Panama.
The boa constrictor can reach 2-3 m in captivity and 5-5.5 m in the wild.
Females are usually bigger and stronger than males. Males have a long tail that gets thicker at the base. Females’ tail is shorter, without thickening. It is easy to find out the sex of the boa judging by the tarsal claws on the both sides of cloaca (they are much bigger with males).
In some parts of the habitat the boa is semi arboreal, but it spends most of its time on the ground. Its peaceful disposition allows local people to use it as a pet for hunting rodents instead of a cat.
It is a calm and friendly snake which is suitable for beginners. It is not venomous and not aggressive, can be handled if tamed.
It is best to keep the boa constrictor alone.
The boa constrictor needs a large horizontal tank. It is best to keep it alone. The minimal size of the tank is 130x60x90. You should put a heating mat on the bottom and then substrate. For substrate you can use coconut husks, turf, small gravel or sand. A mat with artificial grass can be used too instead of substrate. The boa will need a couple of big logs to climb. You will have to put a water bowl in the corner, and it should be large enough for the boa to fit in (it is also necessary for the normal shedding process). The water must be changed daily. A basking lamp is compulsory.
The ambient temperature is up to 32 degrees at daytime and around 23°- 25 C at night.
The air humidity should be around 70%, so you will have to mist daily.
The boa constrictor needs about 14 hours of light per day. It is desirable to take the snake out in summer. UV lamps are a must too.
In the wild the boa constrictor eats mammals, birds, sometimes lizards including iguanas.
In the captivity the main food is rodents: mice and rats. You can add to the menu quails, chicken, hamsters and guinea pigs. You should add to the food calcium supplements and vitamins.
An adult snake should be fed every 8-10 days with 7-9 rats 200-300 gr each. Young snakes should get 1-2 adult mice every five days or 1-2 small rats 40-60 gr each.
The hatchlings are normally fed with 5-6 days’ old rats or young mice.
The boa constrictor is a large snake that requires a big tank.
It requires live feed.
This species is easily tame and like being handled.
The boa is not aggressive and bites rarely.
It is not a venomous snake.
Retrovirus (IBD) has lately become a plague for breeders and those who love boas and some other kinds of snakes. For a while boas can be the carriers of this disease without showing any symptoms, so even if you buy a snake which is healthy in appearance, you cannot be sure that later the virus won’t develop. It is very difficult to check a snake for this virus, there is no guaranteed method.
If the snake refuses to eat, it can be caused by stress, unsuitable food, or it can happen that the snake just is not hungry. You should not try and force the food into the snake: they can live without food for a long time without any damage for their health. You should only start worrying if your snake doesn’t eat for several months. Then you need to analyze its living conditions and the menu prior to this situation. In worst case you might need to force-feed the boa.
The snake can vomit because of stress, illness or if the prey was too big. Also it can vomit if it was fed during shedding or if the temperature in its enclosure is not suitable. After vomiting you mustn’t feed the snake for 7-10 days, and then you can offer it food taking into account the previous mistakes.
Shedding is not a disease, it is a necessary step in the snake’s growth. Its eyes get milky, their color grows paler and the skin starts coming off. During this time you should be extra careful about the humidity and clean water in the enclosure.
Mites are small parasites that live on the snake’s skin. They stick on the snake’s body between the scales and suck its blood. This can make the snake lethargic and it can turn down the food. To get rid of mites you need to use the weak solution of the same medicine which is used against ticks on cats and dogs. You will also have to disinfect the whole enclosure.
Respiratory diseases are usually caused by potentially pathogenic bacteria if the immune system of the snake doesn’t function properly either due to a stress or to unsuitable living conditions. The symptoms include gasping, open mouth, runny nose. These diseases are treated by the injections of antibiotic called Baytril.
It is an ovoviviparous species (the eggs develop in the snake’s body and after a while the young snakes hatch). The shell resolves in the female’s genital tract.
The boa constrictor is sexually mature at the age of 3-4 years. To stimulate mating, you will need to arrange brumation period: you should decrease the temperature in the tank and the amount of hours of light. When you get to 8 hours of light a day, you should stop feeding the snakes, take away the water and switch off the heating for the night. When the amount of hours of light reaches 4 hours, you can switch off the heating completely. The temperature in the enclosure during brumation period should be 16-18 degrees and you will have to continue misting the enclosure. The brumation lasts for 1-2 months, and then you should gradually increase the temperature and the amount of hours of light. Once you start feeding the boas, they can be put together. In the beginning of the mating season the male normally stops eating. After copulation the female stops eating too. You should separate the snakes and put in the female’s tank sphagnum to maintain humidity. The pregnancy lasts from 150 to 200 days, and as a result 7-60 hatchlings come out. They can be fed after the first shedding.
Average life span is up to 30 years.