Boa constrictors are among the largest snakes in the world and can range in length from 8 to 13 feet, although lengths over 11 feet are considered rare. They weigh between 60 to 100 pounds. Boa constrictors have body colors ranging from tan and red to yellowish-green. Their bodies display distinct patterns such as diamonds, circles and lines.
Choosing a Pet Boa
Boa constrictors usually have a calm nature and make good pets. There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing a boa as a pet. It is best to choose your snake from a professional breeder. You want to purchase a good, healthy snake so look for the following signs:
- Firm skin and good muscle tone, feel the snake's body to check for signs of injury.
- Well-rounded body
- Clear eyes
- Flicks tongue to assess surroundings
- Grips arm when held
Once you have chosen your boa constrictor, you will need to set up a proper habitat. The ideal enclosure should be approximately 5 feet in height, 4 feet long and at least 3 feet deep. Boa constrictors are excellent escape artists, so the enclosure should be well-secured with no small openings. The enclosure should be durable and easy to clean. You will need a suitable material, known as substrate, to line the bottom of the enclosure. A variety of substrates will work well, but avoid using wood shavings such as pine or cedar, since they can become lodged in the digestive tract and cause health issues. Choose one of the following substrates:
- Fir bark
- Shredded cypress
Snakes need external sources of heat since they cannot regulate their body temperatures. In the wild, they use the sun for this purpose. When keeping a boa constrictor as a pet, you will need to maintain a proper temperature in your snake's habitat. The snake needs to be able to move from warmer to cooler ares of the enclosure. During the day the temperature in the main part of the habitat should be between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit with a basking area of about 95 degrees. Temperatures at night should be between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There are several ways you can heat and maintain the temperature of the habitat. Heat the enclosure with:
- Ceramic emitters
- Heat lamps
- Heating pads
Heat lamps and ceramic elements can be mounted to the top of the enclosure to direct heat downward. Heat tape or adhesive pads can be placed on the underside of the glass enclosure.
Boa constrictors do not require UV (ultraviolet) light to maintain their health, but you can use a light if you want. If you choose to use light, use full-spectrum lighting or a low-watt incandescent bulb during the day. Place the lighting in a way that the snake does not come into direct contact with the bulb. Snakes can be seriously burned if lights are placed incorrectly.
Boa constrictors are carnivores and eat live prey. Boa constrictors can be fed once a week to a couple of times per month, depending on the age of the snake. Baby boa constrictors grow faster than adults so they require more frequent feedings. A good rule of thumb to remember when feeding is that the prey should be no wider than the widest part of the snake's body. Pet boa constrictors can eat pre-killed prey such as rats and mice. Always provide your boa with a clean bowl of water.
Boa constrictors are classified as exotic pets, and there are laws that vary from state-to-state regarding the ownership of exotic animals. For example, Florida requires boa constrictor owners to have a permit, while Pennsylvania has no specific laws regarding reptiles. Each state has different laws, so before getting a boa constrictor to keep as a pet, you should contact your local game commission to find out the legal aspects of ownership.
Take your new boa constrictor to the veterinarian for an initial examination then follow up with routine visits for maintain its health. Boa constrictors can become infested with parasites that could eventually be fatal. Some infestations can also be transmitted to humans so it is important to always cleanse your hands after handling your pet or its habitat. Boa constrictors can live 20 to 30 years in the wild, so with proper care and maintenance your boa can lead a long, healthy life.