Red Tail Boa Basic Care Sheet
Boa Constrictors, commonly known as Red Tail Boas, are large powerful constrictors that can attain lengths of 8-14 feet, (females grow to be larger than males) and weigh as much as 100+ pounds! A 10 foot Boa Constrictor is a much more powerful animal than a 10 ft Burmese Python. Please keep this in mind when you consider owning one of these large impressive beauties!
Boas like other snakes need secure cages to prevent escapes! They are stronger than you may think and can push out of that cage with the bricks holding the lid down. Some citys require that enclosures for larger snakes also have some type of keyed lock or padlock for extra security.
The minimum size requirements for any snake cage are as follows. With the snake coiled up the cage should be no narrower than twice the coiled diameter of the snake, no shorter than three times the coiled diameter of the snake and at least as tall as 3 times height of the snake at its thickest point. A cage that is 4 ft long, 2 ft wide and 2 ft high is considered adequate for a 8-9 ft snake, larger snakes of course require larger enclosures.
Cage temperatures should be kept somewhere between 82-86 degrees, with the basking area approaching the mid 90's. A 10 degree nighttime drop in temperature is acceptable. For sick animals you may need to increase the basking area temperature to near 100 degrees. Hybernating animals should be maintained in the mid to low 70's
In addition to heat lamps and radiant heating panels which are recomended, Hot Rocks, and various other types of heating pads are also available to the reptile owner. These are often mistakingly recommended in order to provide "essential belly heat" to aid your snake in Digesting its food. With careful use these can be used to provide the hot spot in your snakes cage, however, these should never be the only source of heat for your snake! Thermometers should be placed at floor level, it does no good to know what the temperature at the top of the cage is, when the floor where your snake lives is cold.
Exercise caution with any heat source you choose. Reptiles are incapable of knowing when a surface or area, is too hot and will easily become burned. They just do not have the nerves in their skin like we do and therefore do not know when a surface is hot enough to cause an injury! I always recomend wrapping the heating pad or hot rock with a sock or folded towel rather than allowing the snake to contact the heating source directly. Also you can purchase an inexpensive dimmer switch that attaches to the cord which will allow you to manually adjust the temperature if it gets too hot for your snake. The best way to test any heating source is to place your hand firmly against it, if it is too warm for you to comfortably leave your hand it is too warm for your snake.
It is also recomended that any new reptiles added to your collection be seen by a qualified reptile veterinarian and be isolated from your other reptiles for a period of 6 months to 1 year.
Diet & Nutrition
Rodents make up a large portion of any snakes diet. Many will also not miss the opportunity to take a bird as well, so watch out for your pet parrot! For larger hungry snakes just about any warm blooded animal will do, this includes other household pets. So it is NEVER a good idea to let your snake have free run you home or a room! Snakes can crawl thru very tiny spaces, if it can squeeze it's head thru an opening it will find a way to fit the rest of it's body! Your free roaming snake can easily find its way outside into the neighborhood and if the weather is warm enough local pets will be at risk of being eaten! In cooler weather an escape almost certianly promises illness or at the very worst the eventual death of your pet.
Most snakes should be fed weekly or at the very least every two weeks. Do not feed items larger than 1 1/2 times the snakes diameter at its thickest point. Whenever possible it is ALWAYS preferrable to train your snake to take prekilled prey. This prevents injury to your snake, as a snake that is not hungry or preparing to shed will not eat! This is also most humane for the feeder animal as well. Many snakes have been badly injured or even killed by prey animals that were left in the cage unsupervised!
Small Boas can be started out on 1 or 2 fuzzy or just weaned mice weekly.
Medium size boas can be fed 1 or 2 Medium to Large rats weekly.
Large Boas may feed on 2 or more Large rats or small rabbits every 1-2 weeks depending on activity and appetite.
Don't forget about the small dog eating boa in Chatsworth last year, If you don't want your pet to become another statistic to fuel the fight for stricter controls on pet reptiles, owners need to be extra careful to insure against escapes.
Taming & handling your snake
Children should never be allowed to handle snakes unsupervised!
Remember, unlike a dog or a cat, a reptile is a wild animal that must be tamed and trained to become a good pet. Many calm down and make exellent pets while others may never really become tame or trustable. All animals (and people) can be unpredictable at times, so always keep a watchful eye whenever your pet is being interacted with, to avoid any potential accidents.
Children should never be allowed to handle any reptile without close adult supervision! Accidents can happen quickly! Most small children do not realize that a reptile is not a toy and can easily agitate it by being too rough.
It takes frequent and daily interaction for your new reptile to become used to you. Some animals even once tame will remain nippy in their cages or will still remain nervous when around groups of people.
Boa bites will bleed and do hurt! Read about how to deal with snake bites.
Despite common myths, Boas are not venomous and can not kill you by biting. Boas have several backwards curved teeth, There are four rows of teeth on the top jaw, and two rows of teeth on the lower jaw. The jaws of a snake are hinged to allow it to eat things that are larger than it's head.
You must be consistant and matter of fact when taming your Boa. If you appear nervous or frightened the reptile will sense it and become frigntened as well. Always use caution to insure your pet remains under your control at all times, this does not mean that you should keep a strangle hold on your pet just that you should always be aware of potential dangers or places your snake may find to get wrapped up on or in.
Rember with time and proper handling your Boa can become a pet the entire family can enjoy.
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Reptile Rapsody Reptile Rescue
19510 Van Buren Blvd.,F-3/232
Riverside, Ca. 92508
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