Species group: Boas, Anacondas and Pythons
Other common names: Columbian Red-Tailed Boa, Boa Constrictor, Central American Boa, Hog Island Boa, Corn Island Boa, Honduran Boa, Mexican Boa
Scientific name: Boa constrictor imperator
The Common Boa is the world’s most commonly-kept large snake, and remains wildly popular. Although sometimes thought of as inoffensive, this large, powerful predator can be dangerous in careless hands, and is not a suitable pet for children.
The range extends from northern Mexico south along both coasts through Central America and western Columbia to Ecuador. Herpetologists that consider the Common Boa to be a distinct species (B. imperator) ascribe a smaller range.
The Common Boa occupies a wide variety of habitats, including wet and dry forests, wooded savannas, thorn scrub, desert fringes, swamps and the outskirts of farms and villages. Time is spent in trees (mainly young individuals) and on the ground.
Appearance / health:
The Common Boa averages 5-6 feet in length, with some individuals approaching 10 feet, and rare reports of 12-footers. The background coloration is generally pale brown or tan, but may also be light silver, sometimes with overlying hues of pink or orange. Dark saddles mark the body, and there are black-edged red blotches on the tail. A wide array of color morphs and unusual patterns have been developed by breeders.
With proper care, Common Boas are among the hardiest of snakes, with potential longevities of 25-40 years. Dry sheds are common in terrariums where the average humidity is consistently below 30%, but skin infections will take hold in overly-damp environments. Air circulation that allows the cage to dry out after heavy misting is essential. Boas may also be subject to mites, inclusion body disease and other ailments.
Behavior / temperament:
Common Boas vary in temperament, with some tolerating gentle handling while others remaining resistant. Young animals may be especially defensive. As is true for all snakes, they must be handled with care; adults are not suitable pets for children.
Hatchlings can be accommodated in a 30 gallon aquarium. After 2-3 years, a custom-built cage that is at least as long and wide as the snake’s length, and which allows space for climbing, will usually be necessary. Stout, well-anchored branches or basking shelves and a hide box should be provided. Newspapers, butcher paper, terrarium liners and Astroturf serve well as substrates.
Boa enclosures should be maintained at a temperature range of 82-85 F, with a basking site of 90 F. A thermal gradient allows snakes to regulate their body temperature by moving from hot to cooler areas, and is critical to good health. Heat pads and pig blankets located beneath the cage floor should be provided for larger individuals.
Common Boas are opportunists, taking opossums, bats, rats and other rodents, birds and their eggs, lizards, coatis and other small carnivores, domestic animals such as cats and chickens, and a variety of other species. Pets will accept rats and mice; rabbits are often the least expensive food items for larger individuals.
Breeding is best forestalled until males are 1 ½ - 2 years of age and females are 3-4 years old. A cooling-off period during autumn at a night-time temperature of 68-75 F and with a daytime basking site of 85 F will often stimulate breeding activity. Males should be removed and temperatures returned to normal once the females have swelled noticeably. The young are born alive after 4-5 months, although gestation periods of up to 8 months have been recorded. Litters may contain 10-65 youngsters, but the average is 20-25.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
temperament, best tempered boa, beautiful patterns, docile snakes, beginner snake
large environment, aggressive feeding response, large tank, large snakes, mood swings
natures camoflage, unique tails, different morph coloration
Slim Jim the Magnificant
Oh Slim Jim.... our first snake. The animal that started it all. Before we moved to Florida my dad had the bright idea of opening a pet shop when we got there, so we spent a few weeks going around checking them out, and seeing if we were cut out for one. But then.... We saw Slim. He was a rescue who had recently come into the pet store we were visiting and we feel in love. And as soon as my dad had one snake, the idea of having more came into his mind and suddenly instead of a pet store, we had an exotic reptile breeding business. Slim Jim was skinny and it took a long time to get him to bulk up a little, and he never did get very plump. It took us a while to realize that he preferred, frozen and then thawed rats to eat. Though most of our other boas preferred live rats. Slim Jim hadn't always been treated kindly but he was so gentle. I was 9 years old when we got him and he was gentle enough that I was able to handle him without any fear. Not all of the boas we had over the years shared the same temperament though. One of our boas, Jezebel, was easily the most evil snake we ever owned. So, getting a snake is kinda like getting a cat, sometimes you get a get one and sometimes you get a jerk. A lot of their personality kinks can be worked out through patience and handling though. Even though boas are generally well mannered they are extremely strong. Once they're full grown they're several foot long and pure muscle. While we rarely had problems there was once or twice where my brother was handling one of our boas and it wrapped around him and started to squeeze, he always got out of the hold and the snake wasn't squeezing hard enough to harm but it was still an unfortunate experience. I don't believe this should be a deterrent but I do think it needs to be taken into account when a family chooses what type of snake to bring into their family. Children should never handle an adult boa without supervision. Boas do need a slightly large enclosure, a water bowl, hopefully something to climb on and a heat source but their enclosures are easily to clean and easy to put together. Sometimes I think people get snakes thinking they can treat them like fish. Put them in a tank, and then throw food at them and just stare at them, but they need attention and handling. So if you're up to pay attention to a non cuddly animal, then I say give them a chance! .
From Daphne Petty Jan 2 2019 1:47AM
Brilliant snake, not for everyone.
Note: these snakes can have late growth spurts and grow to nine foot long; even the males, which are usually smaller. You need to be prepared to provide suitable habitat for such a large animal as well as strong enough to handle it. Even a very docile snake of this size could be a challenge for some. It might not be being aggressive, it might just really want to go under the bed.
Frank was generally a very easy going, calm and curious creature. He was a good feeder, but would eat to a point of making himself vomit so care was needed. He enjoyed being handled and tamed down very quickly.
Habitat was easy to provide and maintain, as was heating and lighting. A hide is beneficial, but they may get grumpy if you move them out of it.
Temperament: generally easy going, but can have odd quirks. Seem to learn who their main handlers are as long as they don't alter or mask their body odour. Frank, who was a pet, had a peculiar dislike of certain strangers, meaning he would actually attempt to bite them or me if I was trying to handle him when they were around. There was no reason for this I could identify, though perfumes or strong deodorants may have caused him irritation.
The animal is normally most active at night or in the evenings, moving most when it's near feeding time. If you get them out they will start moving round to explore the environment. They do not like to be handled near shedding time, which could be a couple of weeks. When young shedding will happen more frequently. As adults every six months.
-Boas with very bright red tails are redtail boas, not common boas. They're more highly strung, but can tame down as well as normal boas if you have the time and can put up with a few bites.
-There's always a salmonella risk when keeping snakes. Make sure to keep them away from food surfaces and keep on top of your hygiene after handling or cleaning.
-When cold, they may climb. Be aware of this if you're using heat mats on the floor of their tank.
-They will grow very quickly at a young age. If you want them to be easy to handle ensure you handle them as often as possible between feeds and sheds when they are young as they may soon outgrow a size you're able to deal with.
If you have any questions on feeding or other matters, ask me and I'll get to it..
From JDPayne Nov 9 2014 12:28PM
Do NOT get a Nicaraguan Red-Tail
Not all Nicaraguan Red-Tails look like this. She is a caramel T+ morph. This snake was extremely aggressive. I'd walk into the room and I would hear it strike at the glass of it's cage. This of course made habitat maintenance very difficult. In addition to this, she refused food for no apparent reason. Eventually I broke down and started feeding her live pinkies which she gobbled down with no problem I was incredibly displeased with this snake and traded her back to the breeder I got her from. I recommend red-tail boas but NOT the Nicaraguan variety..
From DennisNJ May 25 2015 10:16PM