Have you ever wanted to go on an adventure to seek out snakes in the wild? These non-venomous snakes are a beauty to encounter in the wild. With a safe following distance, of course! We have the snakes for you… Boa Constrictor snakes and where to find them ( if you’re lucky).
Boa is a common name for a variety of nonvenomous constricting snakes. There are more than 40 species of true boas (family Boidae). In addition, boa may also refer to two other groups of snakes: the Mascarene, or split-jawed, boas and dwarf boas (ground and wood boas of the family Tropidophiidae). The true boas are divided into two subfamilies, Boinae and Erycinae. Boinae includes the boa constrictor , tree boas (genus Corallus), and anacondas (genus Eunectes) of the American tropics; two other genera are found on Madagascar and islands of the southwestern Pacific.
Boas are found in Mexico, Central and South America, and Madagascar. The largest member of the group is the boa constrictor, but it is important to note that this is only one species of boa—all boas are constrictors. A constrictor is a snake that kills prey by constriction.
Are you intrigued? Read on or jump ahead to find out where you can see Boa constrictors in the wild and what makes them so special…
|COMMON NAME: Boa Constrictor|
|SCIENTIFIC NAME: Boa constrictor|
|GROUP NAME: Bed, knot|
|AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 20 to 30 years|
|SIZE: 13 feet|
|WEIGHT: 60 pounds|
Probably the best-known characteristic of boa constrictors is their method of killing. Boas are not venomous; rather, they kill their prey by constriction, or squeezing, it to death.
Boa constrictors are generally between 6.5 and 9.8 feet (2 and 3 m) long. They can weigh more than 100 lbs. (45 kilograms) By comparison, green anacondas reach up to nearly 20 feet (6 m) long, and reticulated pythons are commonly 16 to 25 feet (4.8 to 7.6 m) long.
Boa constrictors also usually have marks on their heads, typically, a stripe that runs from the snout to the back of the head, and a dark triangle between the snout and the eyes continues behind the eyes, where it slopes down toward the jaw. Boa constrictors sometimes have spots across their bodies.
Boa constrictors have small, hooked teeth that they use to grab and hold prey. If their teeth fall out or become damaged, they can regrow them. Boa constrictors do not have fangs, but their jaws can stretch incredibly wide, allowing them to swallow large prey.
Boa constrictors are New World snakes, meaning they live exclusively in the Western hemisphere. but certain boa species have been discovered in remote areas such as Mauritius and New Guinea.
When they do reside in rainforests, they tend to stick to the edges or clearings. They can also be found in dry tropical deserts and semi-deserts, woodlands, scrub and agricultural areas. They are often found near streams or rivers.
Behavior/ Do Boa snakes swim?
Boas tend to be solitary, until mating time. They are mostly nocturnal, though they will sometimes come out during the day to sun themselves in cooler temperatures.
They are excellent swimmers, but prefer to stay on dry land, living primarily in hollow logs and abandoned mammal burrows.
Diet/ What do Boa snakes eat?
Boa constrictors’ diets are composed mostly of small mammals like rats and squirrels. bats are a favorite food, which boa constrictors catch while hanging from trees or the mouths of caves, snatching their prey as it flies by. Though most of their prey is not astoundingly large, boa constrictors will eat anything they can get their enormous, stretchable jaws around. This includes monkeys, pigs and deer.
Boas are not venomous; rather, they kill their prey by constriction, or squeezing, it to death.
Boa constrictors are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Their gestation period is about five to eight months, depending on the local temperature. Females give birth to litters that range from 10 to 64 young. Once born, boa constrictors are fully independent.
Some populations of boa constrictors have come under threat from hunters seeking their attractive skins and meat. They have also faced habitat loss from both urban and agricultural development as well as increased danger from road vehicles. Boa constrictors have also been overly collected for the pet trade.
Are Boa Constrictors Dangerous? Boa constrictors rarely, if ever, attack people, except in self-defense. They have been vilified in pop culture horror films but in reality, are very hard to see in the wild and even when encountered, will retreat.
They are even considered one of the most popular pet snakes, domesticated in many homes as beloved companions. “Boas can be terrific, safe-to-keep, low-maintenance pets. They are often active and alert, and usually tolerate handling well. Captive boa constrictors can live in excess of 20 years with proper care and husbandry.” – Reptile’s magazine. Does this change your view of boas?
Boas are collectively referred to as boines in South America, and they are without a doubt the most famous snakes in the world. The widespread boine fauna of the Amazon River Basin and the Guianas includes five species, namely the boa constrictor , the emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus), the common tree boa (C. enydris), the rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria) and the green anaconda (Eunectes murinus).
Snakes need to swallow their prey whole. A large snake such as the boa can eat a 210 gr roof rat or a 9kg capybara. Different boa species use different habitats (e.g. trees, rivers), and by each specializing on different prey, they are able to co-exist with limited competition from each other.
Different types of Boas
- Boa Constrictor snakes; Anacondas live in the marshes, swamps, and slow-moving streams of the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America. They are slow on land but stealthy and quick in the water.
- Their eyes and nasal passages are on the top of their heads, allowing them to almost completely submerge themselves in the water to wait for prey and approach their hideaways.
The Boa Constrictor
- Boa constrictors come in a variety of colors. Generally, they are a brown, grey, or cream color with red and brown patterns. These patterns become more pronounced near the tail, as in the case of the red-tailed boa. The coloring is an effective camouflage in the jungles and forests of South and Central America, where this species is most commonly found. These snakes prefer the rainforest because of the humidity, but can survive in near-desert climates if necessary.
Emerald Tree Boa
- Emerald Tree Boa constrictor snakes are rarely seen on the ground. These snakes coil themselves around tree branches waiting for prey to get close enough. They have a slower metabolism than other snakes so they can go months without eating. These snakes live in the rainforests of South America. They have highly developed front teeth that are proportionately larger than those of any other nonvenomous snakes. Females give birth to live young, producing an average of between 6 and 14 babies at a time, sometimes even more.
Garden Tree Boa
- Found in the Amazon rainforests of South America, the Garden Tree Boa is a beautiful, nonvenomous snake that comes in a variety of bright colors. Some are totally patternless, while others may be speckled, banded, or saddled with rhomboid or chevron shapes. Some are red with yellow patterns, some yellow with red or orange patterns. These snakes are slimmer than most other boas and fairly lightweight for their length.
- This boa species is found in Central and South America, but is most prominent in Suriname. The most colorful species live in the Brazilian rainforest. Although it is a hard animal to raise in captivity, it is a common pet. It gets its name from the iridescent sheen of its scales, not the actual color. Most Rainbow Boas are red to orange in color, with distinct, usually circular, black markings.
- This boa’s name comes from the rosy or salmon coloration on its belly. Rosy Boa constrictor snakes originate from coastal southern California and Baja California in Mexico. Most Rosy Boas do not have this coloration on their undersides, however, but instead have a series of dark orange spots on a light-colored background. Almost all Rosy Boas have at least some trace of three longitudinal stripes: one down the center of the back and two on the lower sides. These boas live primarily in rocky, desert environments where they can shield themselves from predators.
- The Sand Boa constrictor snakes inhabit dry grassland in Northeastern Africa and the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. It burrows through sand and loose soil in search of small mammals and nesting birds. During the hotter times of the year, it seeks refuge beneath stones and in the burrows of small mammals. These snakes spend most of their time in shallow burrows with only their head exposed.
- Rubber Boa constrictor snakes live in the cool western regions of North America, often on mountainsides at high altitudes. Along with the Rosy Boa, it is one of only two boas native to the United States. It spends most of its time on the ground, but can also burrow, swim, and climb trees to find food. The Rubber Boa is one of the smallest boas in the world. Most do not exceed two feet in length.
Where to see Boas
Although highly elusive to spot in the wild, we do have recommended locations that are home to these remarkable reptiles! Take a look!
The Amazon ( Central South America)
Spanning 6.7 million km2 (twice the size of India) the Amazon Biome is virtually unrivalled in scale, complexity and opportunity, and truly is a region distinguished by superlatives.
Not only does the Amazon encompass the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world, it also houses at least 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, including endemic and endangered flora and fauna, and its river accounts for 15-16% of the world’s total river discharge into the oceans. The Amazon River flows for more than 6,600 km, and with its hundreds of tributaries and streams contains the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world.
Snakes in the Amazon;
Although hosting plentiful snake population in the Amazon, Boas snakes are difficult to come across due to their elusive and solitary nature. However many beautiful tours exist throughout the expanse of Amazon rainforest, South America. Those who are lucky enough to, will witness the snakes that generally retreat into safety upon encounter.
All four species of Anaconda can be found throughout South America, but they dwell predominately in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. Anacondas are semi-aquatic and thrive in slow moving streams, rivers, and other muddy, marshy environments. These “Water Boas”, as Anacondas are sometimes called, tend be slow and unwieldy while on land, and instead use their sleek bodies to swim swiftly through the water. Anacondas are primarily nocturnal snakes, though can be seen active throughout the day
Suggested Tours & Operators
Rainforest cruises Amazon River cruises
Amazon Expeditioners Amazon walk expeditions
Cozumel is a largely undeveloped Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea, is a popular cruise ship port of call famed for its scuba diving. A venue for natural wonders of the land and sea alike.
Boa constrictor snakes were introduced onto Cozumel Island, Quintana Roo, Mexico, in 1971. These species of snake have now become firmly established and has a wide distribution on Cozumel. We recorded an encounter rate of 1.8 boas per 100 km of forest surveyed. Prior to 1971, Cozumel was an island free of boa constrictors. The island did have a few other non-venomous snakes. These types of snakes are found in varying habitats across the country, but the types that reside in the jungles.
Read more about the history of the island and its reptile inhabitants here.
Suggested tours/ Operators:
Safe Tours Cozumel: Private Island tour into national parks and heritage sites
Cozumel Tours: Eco tours
These non-venomous snakes that are mostly found in central tropics and Sothern America, western hemisphere are highly elusive creatures of diverse environments.
Have you enjoyed this article? Learn more about the habitat of the Boa constrictor snakes in our blog featuring animals in the Amazon.