Boa constrictor

Boa constrictor

SUBFAMILY

Boinae

TAXONOMY

Boa constrictor Linnaeus, 1758, "Indiis" (erroneous). OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Boa constrictor, boa, redtail boa; French: Boa constricteur; German: Konigsboa, Sbgottshlangen; Spanish: Maza-cuata, travaganado, macuarel, darura; Portuguese: Jiboia.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a medium-size to large species with a large head distinct from the neck, a laterally compressed body, and a long prehensile tail. Throughout the extensive range, there is considerable variation in pattern and color, but most boas are brown snakes with dark brown markings on the back that expand to become red, reddish brown, or dark brown blotches on the tail.

DISTRIBUTION

This species is found within 150 mi (240 km) of the U.S. border in northwestern and northeastern Mexico. The range includes Mexico, Central America, most of South America north of 35° south latitude. It also occurs on Dominica and Saint Lucia in the Lesser Antilles and on many small islands along the coasts of Mexico, Central America, and South America.

HABITAT

This adaptable species can be found in desert, grasslands, and forest.

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BEHAVIOR

Boas often spend much of their time in trees. Large specimens are probably more terrestrial in their habits, but even very large boas are known to climb. Boas seek shelter in the burrows of agoutis, pacas, and armadillos.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Boas are primarily ambush hunters. There are records of large specimens consuming ocelots and porcupines, but the typical prey includes rodents, such as rats, squirrels, agoutis, and pacas, as well as birds, monkeys, and bats. They eat large lizards, including ameivas, tegus, and iguanas. In captivity boa constrictors typically are fed mice and rats.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Little is known about reproduction in the wild. In captivity boas can become sexually mature in their second year, but maturity more typically comes in the third or fourth year. Babies usually are born 120-145 days after ovulation.

CONSERVATION STATUS

There are no baseline data regarding wild boa populations, but the species appears to be holding its own throughout its range.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

In agricultural areas boa constrictors are important predators of rodents. Boa constrictors are commonly kept in captivity, especially in North America and Europe. ♦

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