Scientific Name: Boa constrictor imperator (BCI)
Sexing and Characteristics:
There are several ways of sexing a snake but the main ones are popping & probing, both of these ways are reliable with probing being the most accurate.
Please note that popping should only be done on young animals.
If you need your snake sexed, make sure this gets done by a professional.
Generally Common Boas reach between 5-9 ft, with the females being larger than males.
It is rare for Common Boas to exceed lengths of 9ft but it is by no means unheard of.
Substrate and Water Needs:
A variety of suitable substrates are available for boas. Pine & Cedar are to be avoided as these are toxic to reptiles. You can use newspaper or paper towel which are cheap but not very aesthetically appealing. Paper can also be used, this is cheap, easy to clean and very hygienic. Aspen, Auboise, Orchid bark or similar is your best option, being fairly cheap and pleasant looking.
You will need a fair sized water bowl, one the snake can submerse its body in, Cat litter trays work well for larger animals.
Lighting and UVB:
Common Boas have no special lighting requirements but if you do use a basking bulb, please ensure the light has a bulb guard to avoid your snake from being burned.
Temperatures & Humidity:
Your Boa should be kept at an ambient temperature between 27-30°C. Provide a hot spot of 32°C so the animal can bask, but ensure the enclosure maintains a thermal gradient so that the snake can thermoregulate effectively.
To achieve these temperatures several heating devices can be used such as:
- Heatmats (Not advised for bigger snakes)
- Basking / Infrared Bulbs
- Ceramic bulbs
The choice of heating system used is a matter of personal choice, however in ALL cases, a thermostat should be used in conjunction with the heater, in order to avoid burns to the animal, and danger of fire.
- The humidity levels in the enclosure should be around 60-70%, though this can be increased while the animal is shedding.
- If help is needed choosing heating/thermostat options, please do not hesitate to contact the Herpetological Society of Ireland & we will guide you in the right direction.
An adult BCI can be housed in a 4/5ft x 2ft x 2ft vivarium although a bigger vivarium may be needed for unusually large specimens.
Young Boas are best kept in small tubs, with secure hides as they may go off feeding if they feel insecure (as with most young snakes, boa constrictors are agoraphobic).
Provide them with 2 hides, one in the hot end & one in the cool end, an appropriately sized water bowl should also be provided.
Most boas will make use of climbing structures if provided. This will allow for the animals to tone muscle as well as being aesthetically pleasing.
Carnivorous- Snakes should be fed appropriately sized DEFROSTED rodent prey (mice/rats). Snakes should be fed food items no greater in diameter than the widest part of the snakes body itself. Live food should be avoided.
Young boas will require more frequent feeding (approximately every 7 days) at first and will grow rapidly. As growth rate tapers off, so too should feeding, with medium sized animals being fed every 7-10 days. An adult animal should only be fed once every 2-3 weeks to avoid obesity.
Regardless of the age of the snake, the food item provided should be, rodent prey, no bigger in girth than the widest part of the snake’s body.
Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:
Generally supplements are not needed because in consuming entire prey animals, snakes obtain a balanced diet containing all necessary nutrients.
Boas are attractive, hardy and are generally of good disposition. These traits make them an excellent species for people with limited experience keeping snakes.
The animal’s water supply should be refreshed every 1-2 days. Spot clean every few days, and clean them out thoroughly every 1-2 months, using an appropriate disinfectant (savlon/ dettol/ trigene etc.). When using disinfectants, ensure the enclosure has been adequately aired out before returning the animal.
Handling your Boa should help keep them calm & easy to handle, however avoid handling in the days immediately after feeding your boa.
Younger boas may initially be wary of handling and may hiss when touched. while this can be disconcerting, be patient and continue to work with the animal. Over time it should become quite comfortable being handled.
Some Words on this Species:
While boas are an attractive and low maintenance animal, they should not be purchased hastily. As with many reptiles, they are very long lived and will require many years of care. Only purchase a boa if you intend to care for it for the entirety of their lifespan.
Caresheet Courtesy of The Herpetological Society of Ireland 2009