Species group: Boas, Anacondas and Pythons
Other common names: Red-Tailed Boa Constrictor
Scientific name: Boa constrictor constrictor
The Red-Tail Boa is a pet trade staple, and has introduced generations of reptile enthusiasts to large snake husbandry. Although commonly 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 southern Columbia to northern Argentina. Red-Tail Boas occupies a wide variety of habitats, including wet and dry forests, wooded savannas, thorn scrub and the outskirts of farms and villages. Time is spent in trees (mainly young individuals) and on the ground.
Appearance / health:
The Red-Tail Boa averages 5-7 feet in length, with some individuals approaching 10 feet and rare reports of 12-footers. Spectacular in appearance, its coloration varies widely, but most are clad in various shades of tan or brown to orange-tinted mahogany, and patterned with dark saddles and blotches. The degree of red coloration shown in the tail (the region below the cloaca) differs markedly among individuals. A wide array of color morphs and unusual patterns have been developed by breeders.
With proper care, captive longevity may exceed 25 years, with several individuals having reached age 40. Dry sheds are common in terrariums where the average humidity is consistently below 50%, but skin infections will take hold in overly-damp environments. Air circulation that allows the tank to dry out after heavy misting is essential. Boas may also be subject to mites, inclusion body disease and other ailments.
Behavior / temperament:
Red-Tail 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.
Red-Tail 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.
Wild Red-Tail Boas are opportunists, taking opossums, bats, squirrels and other rodents, birds and their eggs, lizards, domestic 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
beautiful calm animal, rainbowy shine, stable temperment, attractive morphs, easiest display animal
big enough enclosure, reaches great lengths, proper temperature range, poor pet, mouth rot, big food cost
adult supervision, longterm commitment, live young aka
There's no real difference between the temperament of a red tail boa and a regular boa, the main difference between the two of them is their coloring. Boas in general are usually well mannered but 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 strong enough to handle them properly and go into the relationship with realistic expectations, then I say give them a chance! .
From Daphne Petty Jan 4 2019 12:22AM
The first thing you need to know before you bring home the precious little noodle you saw at the pet store or reptile show is that it's going to get big.
Boa constrictors are not considered giant snakes, but this doesn't mean that by human standards they are small. I have encountered boas that weighed in at nearly thirty pounds--and they need enclosures and microclimates to match. Proper humidity is essential for shedding and proper heat is essential for digestion and overall health. It's not going to be cheap, and it's going to take up a lot of space.
Coming from the experience of working with these animals at a zoo: all of our boa constrictors (red-tailed and otherwise) were public donations. Please be certain that you want and can handle a large snake before purchasing one (and consider checking local shelters and rescues for adults in need of homes). These animals are a commitment, and can live up to thirty years.
There are also potential health issues ranging from respiratory problems to skin infections and snake mites (although my experience may be more extreme given that I worked in an area where many, many snakes were kept, as opposed to one or two pets).
That said, a friendly and well-socialized boa is a delight. There is truly nothing that feels cooler than having a big snake draped around your shoulders, and boas have the benefit of not being so large that they are considered dangerous to adults (always use caution around children). They take relatively easily to handling, especially if acclimated to it when young. They are absolutely beautiful animals--the red-tail boa is especially stunning, often having a dusty pinkish or lavender tint on the body in addition to the vibrant red tail and the all-over iridescence.
Snakes aren't known for having particularly engaging personalities, but boas absolutely are individuals with their own quirks. The downside of this is that there's a possibility of ending up with an unpredictable snake who may occasionally nip or bite; the upside is their charming uniqueness. I've worked with relaxed red-tails, squirmy red-tails, and on one memorable occasion had to coat a red-tail in mineral oil and take the hinges off a door because he had managed to squirm into the tiny gap.
I wouldn't recommend any kind of boa constrictor for a first-time snake owner, but if you have some experience and are ready for a big, beautiful friend, go for it..
From ekccritters Nov 19 2015 9:32AM
The only experience I've had with the Red Tail Boa was challenging and more stressful than fulfilling.
My sister was technically the owner of the pet, but because she was only 13, my parents and I were often required to help her take care of it, especially in terms of feeding and handling.
Most of the time, the snake's behavior was pretty typical of other reptile pets, in that it was usually fine resting in his habitat, and was easy to handle for short periods in a closed area, so that he could not get loose.
However, the ability to handle him was sometimes unpredictable, and the periods of time he was out his habitat always required a level of supervision with another person present, due to the sometimes aggressive and dangerous nature of the snake.
Usually, the most concerning thing that would happen during handling sessions would occur when the snake would do what its name implies, and would constrict a bit too tightly around one of our arms or an object in the room.
Because of this, my sister eventually became apprehensive of her pet, and the responsibility of taking care of the snake fell largely upon me and my father.
In terms of feeding the snake, it required live mice, which proved to be a difficult and slightly tragic experience to endure, as getting the mice in the cage and dealing with the violent nature of the feeding were both challenging tasks.
The snake had overall great health and was otherwise easy to provide for, however it became too unpredictable in temperament in the end, and after one instance of the snake lunging and biting one of my sisters stuffed animals while she was holding it, we decided that it was best that we find our Red Tail Boa a new home.
I would not recommend this pet for younger adolescents or adults who have not had experience with larger or more potentially dangerous reptiles, and I would also be cautious of acquiring this pet if you have young children or small roaming animals in your house, as the Red Tail Boa will not usually discriminate between pets such as hamsters and kittens and their next meal..
From MelissaJuliette Nov 15 2014 9:19PM