Common Boa Constrictor

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Species group:

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 basics:
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

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