When it comes to exotic pets, some find snakes an interesting addition to their pet collection. They are easy and usually inexpensive to acquire and care for and can be kept in the smallest of apartments. When looking for a snake to purchase, the Boa Constrictor, or Red Tail Boa as it is often called, makes a great choice as a pet because of its docile nature, availability, and ease of care.
Choosing a Boa Constrictor
When selecting a Boa Constrictor for a pet, several different points need to be considered, including how much space you can provide for its terrarium, the size and condition of the snake, and how you plan to feed it.
Larger snakes can be accustomed to being fed a certain species of animal or in a certain environment. It is recommended that unless you are already familiar with the habits of the particular snake you are buying, you should opt for a young or even juvenile snake whose feeding patterns have not been reinforced to such a degree that it will not feed unless those patterns are repeated. In any case, check with the owner of the snake to see what and how it has been fed.
It is important to make sure the snake you purchase is healthy. Check that it is free of mites and other parasites and is not overly thin or unhealthy looking. Make sure that you have the means and the will to be able to provide the snake with proper food items. Some snakes prefer only live food, and some people may find feeding a live, cute little mouse to their snake more than they can bear.
Keeping and Feeding Boa Constrictors
According to Dr. Dieter Schmidt, author of Breeding and Keeping Snakes, Boa Constrictors can reach lengths of around 10 ft, and it is vitally important to match the size of the terrarium to the size of the snake you have purchased or are planning to purchase. A good rule of thumb is to provide a terrarium with enough space for the snake to stretch completely out in.
Terrarium size and Environmental Enrichment
Fill the bottom of the terrarium with a coarse substrate such as pulverized tree bark. Terrariums should have some sort of localized heating such as a heat lamp, heat rock, or heating pad, and be kept at a temperature 77-90F during the day and 68-72F at night. Since these boas are native to heavily forested regions of Central and South America, a smooth climbing branch should be included in the terrarium to make them feel at home.
It is also recommended that a hiding place be included, so the snake can have a place where it feels secure and protected. This “hiding place” can be made from almost anything, with old cardboard and shoeboxes being an easy and inexpensive method. Water needs to be provided in the form of a large shallow bowl or basis.
Feeding a Boa Live Food Every Two Weeks
These boas are usually not picky in their choice of food. Younger snakes will take house and field mice, white mice, small laboratory rats, hamsters, and a variety of small bird species, including sparrows and pigeons. Larger snakes can be fed adult rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, and so forth. Almost all of these food items are available at your local pet store.
Most snakes will take their food alive or dead, but some have a preference for one or the other. Boa Constrictors will need to be fed a minimum of once a month. Every two weeks or so seems to be a better strategy, especially with younger snakes that are still growing. It is important to use caution when feeding a boa, as even though they are docile snakes and not poisonous, a boa may confuse your hand or finger for its prey if they are both in its field of perception, resulting in a harmless but somewhat painful bite.
10 Facts about Boa Constrictor Snakes
- Boa constrictors are not poisonous.
- Boas can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds
- They need a large enclosure with plenty of branches for climbing and hiding spots, as well as a water dish that is big enough to soak in
- They are nocturnal animals, meaning they sleep during the day and come out at night to hunt prey.
- When it gets too cold outside, boas will often go into brumation – which means they’ll stop moving around until it warms up again.
- Though they are large and powerful animals, boas can be gentle. They rarely bite unless provoked or threatened.
- Boas are usually found in the rainforest or other warm, humid climates.
- They eat small animals like mice and rats.
- The boa’s prey is killed by crushing it with its coils before swallowing it whole
- Female boas lay eggs every year, but they don’t always hatch successfully.
- A boa will shed its skin every couple of months.
In short, keeping a Boa Constrictor as a pet can be a fun and rewarding experience, or at least provide a provocative conversation piece. Being relatively inexpensive and easy to care for, Boa Constrictors make beautiful and interesting pets and can be cared for by novices and experts alike. Among the species of snakes bred for domestic keeping, Boa Constrictors stand as a top choice.