Cuban Boa

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Is the Cuban Boa right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Maja

Scientific name: Chilabothrus angulifer

The basics:
The Cuban Boa, Cuba’s largest land-dwelling predator, is limited in distribution to that country and several small offshore islands such as Isle of Pines. An endangered species, it is threatened by habitat loss; on farms, it is valued as a rat-hunter but killed when it “samples” poultry. The Cuban Boa frequents dry forests, arid and moist scrub forests, sugar cane fields, and wooded grasslands. Smaller individuals are arboreal, but adults spend much time on the ground, where they shelter in mammal burrows and rock piles.

Appearance / health:
Cuban Boas are the largest of the 10 island-dwelling snakes in their genus, and may reach 13 feet in length, with reports of longer individuals. The body is a unique silver-gray to tan in color, and is marked with reddish to black blotches and saddles.

Behavior / temperament:
Cuban Boas have a reputation as being quick to strike, and indeed some specimens remain so even after many years in captivity. Others will tolerate handling, but extreme caution should be exercised. They are not appropriate pets for children or novices. Two experienced keepers should always be on hand when snakes of over 10 feet in length are fed or handled.

Cuban Boas are more active than mainland Boa Constrictors, and require terrariums or custom-built cages that are at least as long as their body length, and which allow space for climbing as well. The enclosure should be provided with sturdy climbing branches similar to the width of the snake’s body. Hanging live or artificial plants should be positioned over branches to act as sheltering sites for small individuals, which are most comfortable above-ground. Adults will use standard hide boxes. Newspapers, cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials may be used as substrates. Fresh water in a large pan should be available. Ambient temperature: 75-82 F; basking temperature: 86-88 F.

Due to their large size, adult Cuban Boas produce copious amounts of fecal material which must be removed regularly. The enclosure should be misted daily and thoroughly cleaned each 2-4 weeks. Pets and zoo specimens have lived in excess of 20 years.

Cuban Boas feed upon rodents, including Cuba’s endemic, endangered hutia, bats, and, near farms, chickens and ducks. Some individuals hang head-down at cave entrances to snare bats as they leave and return - a spectacular sight to see (if you’re not a bat!). Pets do well on rats, mice, and small rabbits. Youngsters feed primarily on frogs, birds, and lizards in the wild, and may refuse mice. Scenting a pink mouse with a frog or anole usually induces feeding.

The mating season extends from March to May, but captive conditions can alter this. The young, born alive after a gestation period of 4 months, are quite large – 15 inches on average, and sometimes up to 20-25 inches. Litter size is correspondingly small, averaging 4-7. Lowering nighttime temperatures to 69 F, reducing day-length, and increasing the humidity will help to induce breeding.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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