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Haitian Boa

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Is the Haitian Boa right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Hispaniolan Boa

Scientific name: Chilabothrus (formerly Epicrates) striatus

The basics:
The Haitian Boa is more commonly available than it’s relatives from nearby islands (perhaps because it has a better disposition!) but is threatened by habitat loss in the wild. Three subspecies are found on the Bahamas and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in the West Indies. It also occurs on Cat Island and other small, nearby islands and cays. The Haitian Boa originally occupied rain forests and similar habitats, but development has consigned it to scrub thickets, second-growth woodlands, and the edges of agricultural areas. Nocturnal and arboreal, they sometimes adapt to life on the ground where forests have been cleared.

Appearance / health:
In common with other island-bound arboreal boas, Haitian Boas are variable in color and quite attractive. The background color of gray, brown or reddish-brown is decorated with square to linear dark brown or maroon markings. The head is distinctly set-off from the body, and they are slender in build. Adults reach 6-8 feet in length.

Behavior / temperament:
In contrast to the related Cuban and Jamaican Boas, Haitian Boas tend to make relatively “well-mannered” pets. However, personalities vary, and wild-caught individuals may remain high strung and quick to bite. In common with other arboreal snakes, Haitian Boas have a long strike-range; extreme caution should be exercised when handling them or cleaning their cages.

Housing:
Haitian Boas are rather active by “boa standards”, and require terrariums or custom-built cages that are at least as long as their body length, and which are provisioned with stout branches. Hanging live or artificial plants positioned over branches are preferred as hideaways, but hide boxes will also be accepted; some individuals burrow beneath loose substrate when seeking shelter. Newspapers, cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials may be used as substrates. Fresh water in a large pan should be available. A red or black reptile night-viewing bulb can be used to provide heat after dark, and will assist you in observing their nocturnal activities. Ambient temperature: 77-85 F; basking temperature: 88 F.

Adult Haitian 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.

Diet:
Haitian Boas feed upon rodents, bats, and birds. Individuals living near farms are known to take the occasional chicken. Cannibalism has occurred in captivity, so wild individuals likely include snakes in their diets. Youngsters feed primarily on frogs and lizards in the wild, and may refuse mice. Scenting a pink mouse with a frog or anole usually encourages them to feed.

Breeding:
Mating generally occurs in April or May. The young are born alive after a gestation period of 3-4 months, and average 15-20 inches in length. Litter size varies from 5-25. Lowering temperatures to 72 F by night and 78 F by day, reducing day-length, and increasing the humidity will help to induce breeding. Some pairs get along well, but aggression and even cannibalism has been reported.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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