Common Boa (Boa Constrictor Imperator) Care Sheet.

 The common boa (Boa Constrictor Imperator) has an extensive distribution in nature and many geographic names have come to be used to refer to this subspecies, including; Mexican boa, Sonoran desert boa, Yucatan boa, Central American boa, El Salvador boa, Nicaraguan boa, Panamanian boa, Honduran boa, Hog Island boa, Corn Island boa, and Colombian boa.

Size:  This is a relatively slender elongate snake. The head is very distinct from the neck; the body is laterally compressed; the tail is long and strongly prehensile. Large specimens attain considerable bulk and may weigh 40-50 pounds. Adult specimens generally average about 4½-8 feet in total length.

Cage size:  Common boa constrictors require a secure well-ventilated cage.  Vivariums or plastic storage boxes, can be satisfactorily used to maintain boa constrictors.  Newborn boa constrictors can be housed in an enclosure with about 250 sq/cm of floor space until they are about six months of age.  Young adult boa constrictors should be given 2-4 square feet of floor space. Given space and lots of food, common boas grow very quickly to five and six feet in length, and then their rate of growth begins to slow. By four to six years of age, some adult females will require an enclosure with 10-12 square feet of floor space.

Substrate:  It has been our experience and observation that this species does extremely well on either aspen bedding or on newspaper. Both are easy to maintain at a satisfactory level of sanitation.  When using newspaper as a cage substrate, it is a good maintenance practice, after papering the bottom, to crumple several pieces of newspaper in the cage, under which the snake can hide if desired.

Water:  Clean water should be available in a glass or ceramic water bowl at all times.   Common boa constrictors are rarely observed to sit in their water bowls in conditions of normal health and security. Boas may sit in their water bowls if they are stressed or insecure in their cages (they are "hiding" in their water bowl,) or if they are plagued by an infestation of snake mites.

Temperatures:  As a general starting point, common boa constrictors seem to do best if kept in the low-to-mid-80s degrees F. It is good maintenance practice to provide a warmer-than ambient basking spot in the low to mid 90’s degrees F. This will allow the individual to thermoregulate, choosing the temperature that best suits at any given time.

Feeding requirements:  In captivity, young boas readily eat frozen/thawed mice or rats.  Some specimens may eat the food item left in their cages, but some may prefer being offered food using forceps. Large specimens readily feed on rats. One appropriately-sized rodent per week is an adequate feeding schedule for young Boas with adults only requiring only one appropriately sized meal once every two weeks. Adults typically do not feed during the winter months.  An "appropriate-sized" meal is one that makes just a slight lump inside the snake. Snakes that are distended from too-large meals should not be handled.  For their first meals, many newborns will begin feeding on one thawed large fuzzy mouse or pink rat once weekly.  Do not handle them for two days after they have fed if possible.           

Shedding:  Common boa constrictors generally have few problems shedding their skin. When a snake incompletely sheds, and a portion of the skin is left adhered to the snake, the snake should be soaked in shallow water or slightly-soapy water for several hours, after which the skin typically comes off very easily.

Small patches of skin that remain adhered to the snake are not expected to have any deleterious effect and it is at the option of the keeper to arrange for the removal. It's probably best to see that skin is not left on the face and eyes. Typically, "stuck" pieces of shed will come off with the next shed. Incomplete sheds and adhered sheds are an indicator that the ambient humidity in the cage is too low and the careful keeper will "tweak" the system to increase the humidity.

Special considerations for hatchlings and juveniles: 

Most common boas are very docile and reluctant to bite. Occasional babies can be snappy, but they are small and the bites are harmless. But when calmly and consistently handled, the youngsters grow to very docile and trusting adults. A lot of biting can be avoided if the babies are not picked up with the hand, but instead are lifted with a small hook (or bent piece of coat-hanger wire) and set in the hand. 

Boas undergo an ontogenetic color change as they mature. Newborns typically are grayish-brown. With age the snakes begin to develop more yellow and brown pigment. As boas approach adult size, their colors become more saturated and intense; pink, orange or yellow highlights or iridescence may become visible on the sides of the head and body.

General comments: 

Common boa constrictors are among the best snakes to keep in captivity. They are extraordinarily hardy creatures with longevity records in excess of 40 years. They are beautiful, boldly patterned and reasonably priced.

Common boas do not attain sufficiently large sizes to present a physical danger to adults, and, to our knowledge, the species has never been responsible for any human fatalities involving constriction. However keepers considering this species should carefully consider that the large adults do require relatively large and spacious cages.