THE BOA CONSTRICTOR
COLOMBIAN BOA [boa constrictor constrictor]
GEOGRAPHY Colombia,and South Central America.
CARE The colombia boa I am refering to is the popular pet store boa. However this name may not be correct for all specimens as further into Colombia this boa gives way to a True red tail boa species see below. They reach on an average 5-6 ft. with some mostly females reaching 6-7 and larger specimens may be 8' in length and weigh 35-40 pounds. They are typically easy captives and are arguably the most commonly kept reptile in the pet trade. They tame down nicely in captivity and can become a fabulous "pet". Specimens require fairly dry enclosures around 60% humidity. Water containers large enough for soaking should be provided when the snakes are in a shed and humidity may be raised to accomodate the shedding process. Substrate should consist of bark mulch, cork bark, newspaper, artificial carpeting of all types and,aspen bedding. Adults will require enclosures of around 4'x2'. Large adults may require a 6ft. or larger cage as you wish. They do like to climb occasionally so a branch or two is nice however large adults do not climb often and it is definately not needed for a happy snake. Imported adults may be a little nippy however this snake is not imported as an adult often. Most commonly imported are what are called "farm raised" babies. These are typically from gravid wild caught females that are caught and allowed to give birth. However there are genuine farms that do raise up breeders and breed them in the country of origin and then import the babies. This snake is however captive born very often in the U.S.A. and are easily obtainable so imports are not prefered unless it is an unusual color variant. Temperatures for this species should be in the lower 80s with a basking spot of about 88.
BREEDING This species can be a frustrating breeder species. It is hard to predict which season a given female will let a male breed her. Although many breeders do have success every year. A night time drop into the middle 70s with a warm up in the 80s is sufficient. These temps plus a lower light cycle of 8 hours a day should be maintained for 2-3 months. Males should be introduced to females about a month into the cool down. Typically the male will court the female but the female will not let the male breed her at this time. Never the less males may be left in the cage for a week at a time with a removal of 3 days before reintroduction. Common boas are most often warm breeders which means they copulate when the temps are warmed back up and they are back on a feeding schedule. So males should be removed and temps and light cycle should go back to normal. At this time females will be ready to ovulate and males should be re introduced. Spraying lightly with water a few times a day after the warm up may also help copulation. A low pressure weather front in your area may also bring on copualtion. Males should be left for three days on and three days off with the female. Typically you will want at least two copulation observations three is preferred. Males typically climb over the back of a female usually spuring her back and tail to aline their tails. He will hang on in a wavy like pattern and will line his cloaca with hers. Typically breeding happens when the tails are side by side and not wrapped around like colubrids and many boids. Usually copulation can be noted by observing the hemipene and if you do not see it chances are" it aint happening"! So do not confuse courtship with copulation. Ovulation typically happens after fertile copulation and resembles a large meal in the females stomach only a little further down. If the matings were fertile you are on your way. A good indicater also if you notice the swelling and believe it is an ovulation is to place the male back with the female for a few hours at this time. Males usually will not breed with an ovulating female and if they do it was probably a preovulation swelling which will happen before copulation and is higher up in the body than ovulation. After ovulation females will shed about 20 days later. Females should be given a basking spot of around 95 peaking at 100. Females will use this basking spot frequently and if deprived of a basking spot gestation will be longer and the young may be striped or still born or may have congenital defects and severe kinking. Typical gestation time at these temps are around 100-120 days. The babies number typically around 15-25 averaging somewhere around 20. Larger females that have been bred before and have good body weight may have 30 or 40. Babies shed about 10 days after they are born and should be kept exactly like adults. They reach adulthood in about 3-4 years. Animals may be susceptible to respiratory infections if kept too cold.
MEXICAN BOA [boa constrictor imperator]
Mexico and North Central america.
This boa is typically called the common boa or Central American boa it is not a columbian although it is about the same price and availability is about the same. The mexican boa is identified from the Columbian boa by a general overall darkness. The belly is darker the animal is darker and the tail is not as bright.In fact some mexican boas may be almost black. The saddles are identifiable on most but in some they may be rather murky.This boas temperament is a little nippy and they may be more inclined to bite. However this may be due to the fact that most of the central american or mexican boas available are wild caught.This boa may also be slightly smaller than the common boa with both sexes reaching 5 ft in length. Thier care is similar to the common boa and breeding will be the same also although they may not have as many young. Averaging probably around 15-20.
RED TAIL BOAS[ boa constrictor ortonii & subspecies]
GEOGRAPHY Suriname, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Trinidad, and Southern Columbia.
The Peruvian is sometimes reffered to as ortonii, and the North West Peruvian may be called "Longicauda". This particular Peruvian has an overall blue wash to the body especially on the head and will have a heavily speckled underside. Many people are confused at the term red tail boa common boa and columbian boa. Typically when one says columbian boa they are speaking of the light colored animals common to the pet trade. Usually one does not refer to a dark mexican species as columbian but common. Although it is your preference. However neither is called a red tail boa. This has been set aside for another type of boa with a brighter colored tail. When I first came to the hobby I thought a boa is a boa is a boa but how wrong I was! We imported a Guyana boa many many years ago and there is a big difference! The first diffrence one will notice is that the typical red tail boas tails are of course a brighter red or orange red color. Even the best looking columbian can not match a typical tail color of a Suriname. The tail pattern is also usually higher with more red tail rings. Also it is usually bordered by white or yellow. Red tail boas also seem to have a nastier temperament than the columbian.Specimens have to be worked with longer to become tame. Also the true red tail boas are larger with some being measured at 15' long!! It is not uncommon to have a 10 or even 11 foot suriname red tail boa however that is a gigantic stretch for the columbian. The true red tail boa seems to also have a slimmer nose tapered more at the end than columbians. The saddles may also be more wavy kinda like the bat man symbol. Some of the saddles on true red tails are very thin where as the columbians are more blocky. The true red tails are not however easily disyinguished among themselves. Some beleive that the peruvians have a more jet black apperance on the side pattern and saddles, and that the tail color is more orange than the bright red surinames. Some say that the surinames tails are brighter red and that the saddles are bat man like.Others believe that the Guyanas have a purple like wash on the sides rather than the pink of the Suriname or the orange of the Peruvian. Sound confusing? However the best identification of course is knowing the locality of the snake!! There really is no other way of really being sure.T hat is why alot of breeders just label their stock " TRUE RED TAILS". These snakes have a similar husbandry to the columbian however they should be kept more humid about 75%. The breeding is similar except for the fact that true red tails breed when the temps drop instead of the warm up and they should be dropped lower than Columbians around 70-72. It is a harder species to breed than the columbian and humidity plays more of a factor in copulation. Typically they will breed at these temps and the females like columbians ovulate after fertile copulation. The gestation is about the same and they number between 10 and 30. The babies should be kept like adults and they are much more nippy than the Columbians. They also seem to reach maturity at a slower rate although they are larger. Females reaching maturity at about 5 years. In my opinion they grow at a slower rate also.
BLACK BELLIED BOA [boa constrictor melanogaster]
This boa is very similar to the Peruvian red tail boa [longicauda] although when turned over, the boas belly is black! Some specimens may have an overall blue tinge to them being very attractive. The size and breeding should be followed as above.
BOLIVIAN BOAS [boa constrictor amarali]
GEOGRAPHY South Brazil, Bolivia, and
Paraguya [north brazilian species are NOT amarali but a true red tail subspecies].
This boa can be absolutely stunning! The tail pattern on Bolivians is usually short and lacking the red color of the true red tails usually being a brown color. However I have seen some with orange tails but the saddles are very few only about three or four rings long. Typically the tail pattern starts at the vent and then towards the tail, the saddles in other words goes all the way to the vent. The saddles on Bolivians are greatly reduced some being only three or four scales wide. The animal may be brown in color but many are silver and some silver ones can be the best looking boa you have seen!T he animal typically is very heavily but lightly marked with pepper like speckles. The belly is is heavily speckled and has an overall cloudy grey wash appearance to it. This is a good indicater to look for if someone is selling you a Bolivian and you are unsure it is. Turn it over because its belly definately does not look like the typical boa. If it is not speckled it is probably a North Brazilian species which is Not Amarali. This is a smaller boa species only being around 5 ft. long with specimens usually females reaching 6 ft. These snakes should be bred like the true red tail boas however depending on the geographic location of the strain you are working with you may have to cool lower than true red tails. The average clutch is between only 3 -15. There have been females that have produced 30 or more. These females have been bred in the past and had awesome body weight. First time females may only have 2 or 3 babies bummer!
HOG ISLE BOA [boa constrictor subspecies]
GEOGRAPHY Honduras Nicaragua,and Cayos Cachinos islands.
This boa is peculiar in that it has the ability to swing its coloration from one extreme to the other.It may be almost black one day and almost white the other!At night this boa may be a gorgeous bright cream color. Its tail coloration is more orange than red in color although it is as long as most common boa.It is a smaller species with males being breeding size at only 3 feet!! It averages between 4-5 ft, and some specimens may be up to 6ft. and this probably depends on the locality the particular snakes strain originated from.The "TRUE" Hog isle boa from the Cayos Cachinos Islands are truley dwarfs.It is the similar boa from Nicaragua and Honduras that, maybe not the same species and get larger but appear similar in color.It reamins to be seen if they are seperate sub species of Hog isle boa.These animals typically weigh about 8-15 pounds. The temperament is even and it becomes an extremely docile animal. The nose is a little longer than the common boas and the head appears a little thinner to me. This boa is not so far classified as a subspecies however it is obviously very different.
BREEDING is similar to common boas although they will not have as many young. They should also be kept in the manner of common boas. Breeding is the same as the common however they have less babies numbering about 10-20.
CRAWL CAY BOAS
GEOGRAPHYCrawl Cay Island near Belize S. America
This is another dwarf boa only averaging around 4 feet.The animals usually weigh only around 8-10 pounds.Possibly another variation of the Hog isle boa.They have a typical boa pattern except most are exceptionally "clean" with a silver background color.They differ by having an unusually large dark arrow on the head.They should be kept at temps and humidity more similar to a "true" red tail.They look great in a natural terrarium and are small enough to accomodate this.At the present time there are few available and prices are pretty high.This is a species that will be scarce for a couple more years.Typically they have between 3 and 5 offspring but this is also depending on size.Temperature cycling should be followed as a "true" red tail boa.
ARGENTINE BOA [boa constrictor occidentalis]
This is a very dark species of boa although now there is a hypomelanistic phase of this species that is very light. Overall this boa is a dark sooty color with the tail being darker also. It has white outlines on the saddles and a somewhat white mottled look. Some are knock out beautiful and others are just plain sorry but. It can be a large boa averaging 7' in length with specimens not uncommonly reaching almost 10 feet! These boas are less tolerant of handling than the common boas although if they are held and worked with often they may become handleable. Because of the location this boa is from they need to be cooled lower than the red tails or common boa for breeding with temps dropping to the lower 60s. Always warm the day time temps up into the 80s. They love to bask at higher temps when gravid about 100-115 whew thats hot! These boas are also capable of giving large clutches of babies as many as 60!! But typical clutches may be 20-30. It may just be my observation and I hope I do not upset any one saying this but this seems to be the most observed boa species with I.B.D. Every time I read a report on this disasterus virus it is always about an Argentine boa maybe it is just coincidence has anyone else noticed this? Be careful buying certain Argentines as they may be the carriers of this disease!
CORN ISLE BOA [boa constrictor subspecies]
This is a new species that is now imported from Nicaragua. It is very similar to the Hogg Isle Boa in the respects that it has the ability to greatly change its color more than the other boas from a very light color to a dark almost black coloration.Its colors look similar to the common boa however the saddles are usually lighter in color and the tail is a more orange brown color.It does have lighter pinkish orange sides that can be beautiful when the boa is in its light phase.It is also a smaller boa reaching 5 ft. in length.It just came into the pet market last year and to my knowledge has not been bred in captivity, although breeding is probably the same as the hogg isles. It seems as if this may be a hogg isle boa from a differeent local. It has a pleasant temper at least the ones I have worked with.
CLOUDED BOA [boa constrictor nebulosus]
Care is similar to the above common boa. It is found throughout the rainforst mountainous habitat of Dominica. It is also a good climber and branches will be used. It is a somewhat washed out looking boa lacking for the most part the reddish color tail. The tail being a somewhat washed out dark brown color. However this is not an unatractive boa. The temperament of this species leaves something to desire most specimens do not tolerate handling and will bite if provoked even if raised in captivity. They are a little skittish so a hide box should be utilized. Typical size for the clouded boa is 6 feet. They may need to be cooled lower than the common boa for breeding. They probably do not have as many young either.
ST. LUCIAN BOA[ boa constrictor orophias]
This boa is another isolated species found only in ST. Lucia. It is a forest species not found far from water. It should be kept like a true red tail boa. This boa is very similar to the clouded boa but is a darker color however its saddles are identifiable. It can be identified from the clouded boa by scale count its saddles number up to 31 where as the clouded boa has at least 31. It has 270 - 288 ventrals where as the clouded has only up to 273. Females typically have 10-15 babies in a clutch and they attain a length of about 6-7'.
COLUMBIAN BOA, HOGG ISLAND, CORN ISLAND INDEX
SIZE-3 HOUSING-3 FEEDING-4 TEMPERAMENT-4
ARGENTINE and MEXICAN INDEX
SIZE-3 HOUSING-3 FEEDING-4 TEMPERAMENT 2-3
RED TAIL BOAS INDEX
SIZE-3 HOUSING-3 FEEDING3-4 TEMPERAMENT 2-3[sometimes 4]
CLOUDED BOA INDEX
SIZE-3 HOUSING 3- FEEDING-3 TEMPERAMENT 1-2
BOLIVIAN and ST. LUCIAN INDEX
SIZE-3-4 HOUSING-3 FEEDING-3-4 TEMPERAMENT 3
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