Name: Columbian Red-Tailed Boa
Proper Name: Boa Constrictor Imperator
Selecting Your Boa: Look for Clear, smooth skin. There should be no damage, or scars to the body of the snake. A round body, clear nasal vent, and clear eyes are good signs of a healthy Boa. Also look for an active snake that actively flicks its tongue.
Native: Colombian Red-Tailed Boas are found in the tropical rainforests of Colombia, as well as other parts of Central and South America
Size: Neonates range from about 16-24 inches in length, and grow relatively slowly into 6 to 10 foot adults. A male Boa tends to be 6-8 feet long, and very thick bodied. A female will reach closer to 8 to 10 feet, and are also thick bodied. Over feeding can produce fast and unhealthy growth. Healthy adults usually weigh between 30 and 60 lbs. The largest Boa in captivity is 16 ft. long. Growth is directly related to diet and housing conditions. However, unlike fish, a reptile will outgrow its surroundings.
Behavior: Captive Newborn Red-Tails are usually quite aggressive. With frequent and gentle handling, Boa’s quickly become very docile. Juveniles and adults are usually extremely docile.
Substrate: Paper towels are ideal for young Boa’s. Paper Towels make it easier to notice parasites and the condition of their feces. Paper towels are inexpensive and easy to clean. Shredded cypress or fir bark is a standard substrate used for older Red Tailed Boas. Astroturf is widely used since it can be easily cleaned, along with indoor/outdoor carpeting. Many people select aspen and cypress mulch because they are very attractive, and can be spot cleaned. This type of bedding should be completely replaced every month. When using a substrate such as pine, cedar or aspen shavings, be very careful as they chips may become lodged in the mouth while eating causing respiratory and other problems. The bark must be monitored closely and all soiled and wet portions pulled out immediately to prevent bacteria and fungus growths. The indoor/outdoor carpeting looks great, and can be taken out and replaced with another piece, and cleaned. The Carpeting is safe for Boa’s, and will not be swallowed.
Lighting: No special lighting is needed. The use of a full-spectrum light or low wattage incandescent bulb is recommended. Red-Tailed Boa’s should have 12 hrs of light and 12 hrs of darkness. All lighting should be well caged so the Boa cannot burn itself.
Hiding Place: A hiding place should be provided for Boas. There are many options when selecting a hid box. Half-logs, empty cardboard boxes, upside-down plastic containers, and even a stone built cave will work. If a rock cave is built, be sure to thoroughly support it because boas become very strong and heavy and can knock down most rocks causing harm to the snake and possibly breaking the enclosure. Most Boas enjoy climbing on branches and other elevated surfaces. A large clean branch big enough to support the Boa's weight should be provided. Branches or logs found outside should not be used. Only properly treated branches are acceptable for a Boa’s habitat. Using untreated branches can result in parasites and insect problems.
Temperature: A proper temperature range is essential. The ambient daytime air temperature inside the enclosure should be between 81-89 F degrees. The Basking area should have a constant temperature of 89-95 degrees. At night, the ambient air temperature may be allowed to drop down no lower than 78-85 F. All lights must be caged off to prevent the snake from being burnt. Two thermometers should be used; one placed 1” – 2” above the enclosure floor in the cool zone, and the other 1“ - 2" above the floor in the basking area.
Humidity: Humidity should be around 50-60%.
Food: Strictly Carnivorous. Newborns should start with pre-killed pinkie or fuzzy mice. The size of the prey is determined by the girth of the snake. The prey should be slightly smaller than the widest portion of the snake. Feed juveniles every 7-10 days. Adults and sub-adults should be feed every 10-14 days. If your snake will not eat pre-killed food, feed it a fuzzy or pinky mouse or pinky rat. Older mice and especially rats can be a danger to your snake. Large mice and Rats if not pre-killed can chew on the Boa leaving large wounds and eventually scars.
Feeding: Allow your snake to acclimate the new environment for a couple at least one week. Make sure your hands have been thoroughly cleaned the prey is parasite free. Take the snake from the enclosure and into a “feeding bin” where the snake goes to eat. This is important so that the snake gets used to not eating in their own enclosure. If a snake is used to eating in its own enclosure, than every time the top is opened, the snake will think it is food and attack. Once the snake is secure in its “feeding bin” pre-kill the rodent take a hold of the rodents tail. Flip the body of the rodent inside of the feeding bin for the boa to smell and gently wiggle it around. This gives the snake the impressions of live prey. Make sure your fingers are well away from the snake to avoid being struck. As for Hatchlings, simply placing the small pinky into the enclosure should be sufficient. And Pre-kill the prey before placing it inside the cage. If your boa is not eating, you may have to force feed the boa. If you have not had any experience force feeding a snake, you may not want to try it yourself until you have seen someone do it. Force-feeding should be an action of absolute last resort. It is very stressful for the snake, and can be dangerous. Do not attempt to try this without experience or the help of an experienced person. Overfeeding in captive snakes, especially the boas, is very common and very unhealthy. Boas do not get as much exercise in captivity as they do in the wild. Feed the Boa enough to keep it healthy not overweight. Give it time; your boa will get big on its own. Overfeeding is not only unnecessary it’s unhealthy. After feeding your boa, let him/her rest in the feeding bin for 15 – 30 minutes and than carefully transport the boa back into its secured enclosure. Avoid handling the boa for two days after eating so not to disturb the digesting process.
Water: Provide a bowl of water for drinking and soaking. Change the water every day and whenever it is soiled.
Shedding: Healthy red-tails with the right humidity level should shed in one piece. If, however, a piece of dead skin doesn’t come off with the rest of the shed, the snake should be soaked in shallow warm water for an hour or so. Make sure the water is not to deep, and that there is plenty of room for the boa to breath and move around. Once the soak is over, the boa should finish its shed very easily. A well-fed Boa will shed about every month and a half when they’re Juvenals. Handling should be kept at a minimum during the shed period, as the new skin can be sensitive (or even damaged). Feeding should also be postponed for the same reasons; in fact, most will refuse food while shedding.
Handling: Give the boa plenty of time to become accustomed to its new surroundings. Slowly begin handling your boa gently. The snake may strike your, but only in defense. Daily and persistent contact with your Red Tailed Boa will produce an extremely docile snake. If the snake wraps itself around your neck, grab the base of the snake’s tail and slowly unwrap it from your neck. Always respect your Red Tailed Boa as a snake. They are wild creatures and may attack in defense at any time. Carefully and slowly is the rule of thumb for dealing with snakes. Always remember to wash your hands thoroughly with an anti-bacterial soap before and after handling any reptile. It’s safer for you and the snake
Housing: Use at least a 20L for Juvenals and at least a 55-gallon tank for adults. For Juvenals, don’t give them to much room; they may become stressed in to large of an enclosure. For adults, it is recommended to have an enclosure that is three quarters the length of the snake long, and two thirds its length deep. Taller tanks are better. Red Tailed Boa’s enjoy climbing. Give them plenty of area to move around in, and climb on. Make sure the tanks screen top is secured with clips or fasteners. Boas are very strong and may escape from unsecured cages easily. Be sure to include a hide-box large enough for your snake to fit into comfortably. It is a good idea to put a large basking rock under the heat source. Rocks absorb heat better than most substrate so the snake has a better place to warm up. Shelves are an easy way to increase floor space and also give the Boa somewhere to go when active. Fake plants are great for Red Tailed Boas. It gives the snake a sense of security and gives them somewhere else to go. Not to mention the ascetics.
Longevity: A healthy captive Red Tailed Boa Constrictor can live to be 25 years or older.
Mostly Active: During Night
Cleaning: It is important that you develop and follow a daily cleaning schedule. All soiled substrate should be removed/cleaned immediately. Cool fresh water should be given every day or when soiled. Clean the water container and sterilize it every water change. The entire enclosure should be cleaned and sterilized at least once every other week. Use Quat Plus, which kills almost all bacteria and is safe for all reptiles.
Parasites and diseases: Red Tailed Boas, like all snakes, can suffer from many problems. Problems such as ailments: ticks or mites on the skin, worms, protozoa, bacteria, and even viruses. Whenever you enter a new reptile into an enclosure with another reptile, the snake must first be quarantined. It is recommended you quarantine for at least 3 months. Sometimes though, you may get ticks and mites. Though they should generally not be a problem for snakes, if found they must be removed immediately. Be very careful when removing ticks, an imbedded head can cause a nasty infection. A good cleaning should rid a flea problem. Mites are another story. The common snake mite almost always arrives on a snake from a pet store or other infested location. I suggest Provent-A-Mite or Black Knight. Both are much respected products. Make sure you read all the instructions before using these chemicals!
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