Boa Constrictor

 

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Range: Central and South America with many subspecies occurring on islands etc.  The total number of subspecies is debated today but believed to be in the neighborhood of 25.

Habitat: Savannahs to dense tropical forest.  Extremely varied habitat by species and sub-species.  The Boa Constrictor is one of the most adaptable of all large constrictors, virtually no other boid species can live in such diverse habitats.

Natural Diet: Small mammals & birds, occasionally eating amphibians and small caiman.

Diet at RainForest: Pre-killed frozen rodents of various sizes depending on the size of the snake feeding.

Size: Record said to be 18'.   Average size 6-8 feet. 

Highly variable by subspecies, some insular species of Boa Constrictors reach only 3-4 feet in total length.  Widely associated with being a giant "man-killer" in movies and myth, these normally placid animals are some of the smallest of the giant snakes.  

Keeper Notes: One of the most frequently kept pet snakes, the common or Columbian Boa Constrictor, is generally a very docile animal.  Females give birth to a clutch of live babies.  A large female Boa Constrictor may have as many as 30-40 living young.   Experts disagree on the number of subspecies of Boa Constrictors, but it is widely accepted that there are at least 20 subspecies of this snake.  A long lived species the Boa Constrictor can live well over 30 years in captivity. 

RainForest Fun Fact!
The Boa Constrictor is one of the few animals on earth whose Latin name is identical to it's common name!  You may not have known it...but you are speaking Latin!

The claim of a Boa Constrictor in excess of 18' is widely questioned by experts, the use of the word "Boa" by native peoples of tropical South America often refers to the Anaconda, a close relative of the Boa Constrictor.  The word Anaconda literally translates to "water boa"  The current accepted and published world record Boa Constrictor was probably an Anaconda.  Boa Constrictors rarely exceed 10' even under the best of conditions in captivity.  

Status in Wild: Declining due to deforestation, over collection for the skin trade as well as occasional consumption by humans.   The pet trade is no longer a major threat to this animal as Boa Constrictors breed readily in captivity, literally 10's of thousands are produced annually by both amateur and professional breeders to supply the demand from the pet trade. 

All Pythons are constrictors.  Snakes that hunt using constriction as a means of subduing prey will very quickly grab their prey with their teeth using a very fast strike. The constrictor will quickly wrap coils of their bodies around the prey and squeeze or constrict the prey item.  This process does not actually crush the prey and break its bones as is widely reported in the media.  Instead, they squeeze tightly so that the prey animal canít breath and it suffocates, this process usually requires about 3-4 minutes for the prey animal to be killed.

Once the snake is certain the prey item is dead they then begin to search for the animals head, virtually all prey animals are consumed head first.  This process allows the snake to literally "fold" the arms and legs of the prey animal back as the creature is swallowed.  Contrary to popular belief a snake does not "unhinge" it's jaws, the jaws in fact are not actually attached in a mechanical way.  Long tendons and muscles connect the upper and lower jaws.  The lower jaw is actually made up of two separate bones to further enhance the animals ability to manipulate large prey items.

Once the snake has the animal past it's jaws a series rhythmic muscular contractions then pull the prey down the snakeís throat and into its stomach.   A very large prey item can be observed in the snakes stomach as a large bulge.  Contrary to popular belief the large prey item is not digested by slowing moving down the length of the snake.  Once the prey animal reaches the stomach, usually about 20 minutes for a very large item, the food item is stationary in the snakes stomach as it is gradually digested.    The size of the meal can have an impact on the duration of the digestion, but external factors such as ambient air temperature play a larger roll.  The snake must be careful not to eat when temperatures are too cool, the meal will quite literally decompose faster than the snake can digest it, causing a gaseous bloating in the snake that can result in death.  Ideal air temperatures allow the snake to digest the meal prior to the food item decomposing!  Snakes often will regurgitate a meal when the conditions do not allow it to properly digest the meal, this can include both temperatures that are too high and too low!

 

The heat sensing pits on many species of pythons and boas (along with North American pit vipers) can either be subtle or very well defined.  In the case of the Emerald Tree Boa the pits are large and very visible along both the upper and lower lips. 

These organs allow the snake to literally "see" the heat signature of a warm blooded animal in pitch darkness.  One of the favorite food items for the tree boa in the wild is birds, being arboreal this species spends virtually it's entire life in the trees, as do many bird species.  The ability to detect the presence of a bird in the darkness of a rain forest night using it's heat sensing organs allows this successful hunter to feed day or night. 

   

 

High Resolution Pictures Available

Captive Reproduction Information

 

 

 

 

 

RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN