How To Care For A Boa Constrictor
Boa constrictors have been given a rough reputation of the years due to some owners’ inability to properly care for these magnificent creatures, however, when taken care of properly; they are some of the best pets you can have.
Let’s start by talking about hatchlings. Due to their vulnerability in the wild baby boas initially have a low threshold for defensive behavior. They become quite tame when frequently handled. It is crucial to remember however that there is no such thing as a 100% 'tame' snake. No sudden movements should be performed when handling a snake; handling should be done gently, and of course it is imperative to not allow the snake to wrap around your neck. The best choice of selecting a boa constrictor is to get them from newborns or juveniles. As they grow and get older they will become familiar with you and may even show, what is interpreted by its owner, some degree of affection.
After their first shed, which occurs approximately 10 days after birth, the baby boa starts to feed. In captivity they should be fed weaned mice (pinkies). After a few feedings the size of the prey can be increased but should never be bigger than the girth of the mid-body of the snake to prevent the risk of regurgitation. It's also recommended to feed the animal pre-killed rodents in order to prevent possible bites to the snake. It is also more humane because it minimizes suffering in the prey item. As they grow the boas can be fed larger prey. From small rats to adult rats and eventually switch to frozen rabbits.
The growth rate of your boa will depend upon how many times you feed it and maintenance of proper temperature in the cage.
• Up to three feet (1 meter): Feed one or two mice every 5 to 7 days
• Up to six feet (2 meters): Feed one or two rats every 10 to 14 days
• Adults: Feed four or five rats or one rabbit every 3 to 4 weeks
The table above is only a handy guide. Use your own judgment whether your snake needs a bit more or less.
How to Feed
Rather than just throwing a prey item in the cage it is recommended to adopt certain feeding procedures. Feeding baby boas or juveniles doesn't require special precautions necessarily. As they become larger it is important to be more careful when it comes to feeding. Small boas can be offered pre-killed prey by holding the latter by its tail, however it is recommended that tweezers be used to offer prey.
With larger boas the use of a large set of tongs is a good idea. You can then offer the prey item in as safe way without risk of getting bitten. When it comes to feeding the snake it is important to remember that it will be at its highest level of natural instinct. It will only concentrate on the observed scent of the rodent. Prey items that are not eaten should be removed using the set of tongs. One other handy tool is a large snake stick that can help you moving the snake away from the door before you offer it prey. After proper feeding you should leave the snake alone for a couple of days since picking it up or handling it after it has eaten can cause regurgitation.
Some species of boa are known specifically for their temperamental or unpredictable behaviors. The Islands groups and Boa constrictor occidentalis from Argentina have the most notorious bad tempers. Some red-tailed boas like boa constrictor of Surinam are sometimes difficult to handle as well.
Overall, it is important to note that aggression must be understood as a term of basic defensive behavior. A snake isn't all that smart, can't hear us and basically all reptiles are shy so it will sometimes take a while to get the animal comfortable with you and the environment you provide it with.
If you ignore your boa and only open its cage to feed it, the snake will associate the opening of the door as an act prior to feeding and will prepare itself to attack. All snakes give ample warning before actually striking out though. They will hiss, open their eyes wide, raise their head slightly and form a coil in the front part of their body. Make sure to also watch for Tongue-flicking that is slow with the tongue remaining extended for prolonged periods of time. When handling a boa that performs these behaviors, be gentle, refrain from sudden moves and encourage the snake to move forward, and then proceed to place it back in the vivarium. To minimize these potential behaviors it is wise to interact with your boa a couple of times a week. However, when the snake has just eaten you should leave it alone for a couple of days to prevent regurgitation of the prey.
Ranges East of the Andes with exception of the Antilles.
Ranges from North to West of the Andes.
Scientific name: Boa c. constrictor
Ecuador: B.c. melanogaster
Argentina: B.c. occidentalis
S. Brazil: B.c. amarali
Scientific name: Boa c. imperator
Islas Marias: B.c. Sigma
W.Peru: B.c. ortonii
St.Lucia boa: B.c.orophias
Dominica boa: B.c. nebulosa.
The following are some well known diseases that Boa Constrictors struggle with, their symptoms, reasons for the disease and potential ways to help prevent or get rid of the diseases.
Disease Prevention: Newly acquired snakes should be housed separately from ones already in a collection. They should be kept in conditions that are simple to maintain: just a water dish and a towel for substrate will do. During this quarantine which should last for at least 6 weeks the animals need to be well monitored. Any signs of illness must be treated immediately. It's always a good idea to take a new snake to the vet for a thorough check up.
Respiratory infections: Bubbly mucus from the mouth and the nostrils, with gaping of the mouth. Often caused by Pseudomonas, these infections result from inappropriate conditions. Cool temperatures, dry air, dehydration, stress, and parasites. If caught in the early stages, increase the temperature to 90F and reduce all possible stress to the animal. If conditions persist, antibiotic therapy will be necessary through a veterinarian. Leads to death if left untreated.
Mouth rot: Necrotic stomatitis or mouth rot is commonly seen in captive reptiles. The symptoms include red and swollen oral tissues and mucus. In the later stages hard, cheesy-looking matter builds up on the teeth and gums. It's a progressive disease and in later stages the bones of the jaws become invaded. Leads to death if left untreated.
Gastroenteritis: Repeated regurgitation, loose and smelly stools eventually with presence of blood. Dehydration, loss of appetite and weight loss are among other symptoms. These symptoms are generally caused by amebiasis, salmonella and flagellate protozoa. Leads to death if left untreated.
Internal Parasites: Trematodes, nematodes, salmonella and cestode worms. Typically they are found in imported snakes. When kept under clean and healthy conditions, captive-bred boas can fail to harbor these parasites.
Skin blister disease:Raised scales with white bumps are the biggest warning sign here. These symptoms occur when the animals are kept in dirty and damp quarters. Moistened ground medium is one of the causes. Change to proper maintenance strategies and keep the animals in dry conditions using towels or dry paper as a substrate during treatment. The scales and bumps can be treated daily with a Betadine solution. If no improvement is seen the snake should be taken to a vet.
Star gazing disease: A malfunction of the nervous system caused by Amebaean protozoa. Symptoms include periods of raising of the head perpendicular to the body. Veterinarian care must be taken immediately. Mostly seen in imported adults and often results in death of the snake.
Mites: These are bloodsucking external parasites which are hard to get rid of. The snake can be placed in an escape free container filled with water (about the height of the body) and left there for 2 or 3 hours. Meanwhile all furniture and substrate is taken out of the cage and disinfected. The cage and the outside should be disinfected and thoroughly rinsed as well. An Anti Pest strip (Vapona) should now be placed in the cage as well. Also put it in a perforated container so the snake can't touch it. Take the snake out of the soaking container, wipe it with a cloth, and put it back in the cage. Check the vivarium daily for dead mites. Repeat this whole treatment in 10 days to prevent re-infestation. Learn more about reptile mites and how to get rid of them.
Ticks: Mostly seen in imported boas, this is another bloodsucking parasite which can be found between the scales of the snake. They should be swabbed with rubbing alcohol and pulled out with forceps after a few minutes. Take extreme caution when removing ticks in the area of the eyes. In serious cases seek veterinarian assistance.
Shedding problems: Low humidity, lack of water or overall healthy condition can lead to this problem. Pieces of skin stuck to the skin can be manually removed after soaking the snake for 30 minutes in warm water. Extreme care should be taken when removing the eye caps!