Jamaican Boa

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Is the Jamaican Boa right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Jamaican Yellow Snake

Scientific name: Chilabothrus (formerly Epicrates) subflavens

The basics:
The Jamaican Boa is found only on Jamaica and nearby Goat Island, where it is the largest native terrestrial predator. Classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, it is threatened by habitat loss. Where undisturbed, the Jamaican Boa occupies a wide range of habitats, including dry limestone scrub forests, moist woodlands, marshes and mangrove swamps. Nocturnal and arboreal, they sometimes adapt to life on the ground where forests have been cleared.

Appearance / health:
Jamaican Boas are among the most beautiful of all Caribbean snakes – no need to “improve” them by breeding “designer color morphs”! The silver gray of the head gives way to golden-yellow, reddish- brown or orange, which extends to mid-body. Yellow scales marked by black crossbars take over at then point, after which the color darkens to near-black along the tail – simply spectacular! Newborns are also quite attractive, being pale orange in color and bearing black markings. Adults reach 7-8 feet in length.

Behavior / temperament:
Jamaican 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.

Jamaican 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 stout branches similar to the width of the snake’s body. Hanging live or artificial plants positioned over branches are preferred as hideaways, but standard hide boxes will also be accepted. Newspapers, cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials may be used as substrates. Fresh water in a large pan should be available. Ambient temperature: 77-85 F; basking temperature: 88 F.

Adult Jamaican 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. When well-cared for, these striking beauties may live in excess of 30 years.

Jamaican Boas feed upon rodents, bats, and birds. In common with related species, 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 a diet comprised of rats and mice. 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.

The mating season extends from February to April, but captive conditions can alter this. The young, born alive after a relatively long gestation period of 6-7 months, average 15-20 inches in length. Litter size varies from 5-45. 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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