RANGE:northern Mexico through Central America to Argentina
HABITAT:forest, savannah, swamp
DIET: CARNIVOREsmall mammals, birds, lizards
OFFSPRING:20-50 live young per birth
LENGTH:5-8 ft on average; record is 18 ft
WEIGHT:60 lbs (27 kg) on average
“Where I live”
Boa constrictors have adapted to a variety of habitats but are most often found in rainforest clearings or edges. They also inhabit woodlands, grasslands, dry tropical forest, thorn scrub, and semi-desert.
The Maryland Zoo features a boa constrictor among its Animal Ambassadors, which are introduced to audiences in education programs on and off grounds.
“How I live there”
Boa constrictors spend much of their time coiled around branches but also make their way to the forest floor to search for prey. The larger a boa gets, the more time it will spend on the ground. These snakes hunt mainly in low light or at night. When resting, they usually remain sheltered, although they may come out to sun themselves in cool weather.
Like most pythons and boas, boa constrictors are solitary animals that associate only during breeding season. They tend to be mildly territorial, preferring to settle in and “claim” a favorite roosting site.
Boa constrictors do not have heat-sensing pits with which to locate prey. However, they do rely upon chemoreception to track prey and investigate their environment. The snake will flick its tongue to gather chemical samples from the atmosphere and deliver them to a special organ in the roof of the mouth – the Jacobson’s organ – where they are analyzed. In addition, boa constrictors have good vision and can detect vibrations in the ground and sound vibrations through the air (although they lack actual ears.)
Once a boa constrictor locates prey, it will bite quickly not to kill its prey but to immobilize it. The snake then will wrap its coils around the prey and begin to squeeze. The snake swallows its prey whole. All boas and pythons are constrictors. Any snake that eats potentially harmful prey is either venomous or a constrictor.
“Making my mark”
Boa constrictors are popular pets that have been bred in captivity for many generations. They are relatively undemanding pets but still require special care and consideration that any pet owner should become familiar with – and commit to – in advance.
Boa constrictors breed during the dry season, which can vary depending on a particular snake’s range. Both males and females will mate with multiple partners per season. Males typically must go in search of breeding females, which may be widespread. Females tend to reproduce about every other year, and only when healthy. Gestation lasts anywhere from five to eight months. Young are born live and become independent immediately. Newborns look like miniature versions of their parents and do not undergo metamorphosis. However, like other snakes, they will shed their skin periodically to accommodate growth.
“What eats me”
While there is rare mention of boa constrictors being preyed upon, they almost surely are, and juveniles are most vulnerable.
Boa constrictors are not endangered but are vulnerable to habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade. They are also hunted for their meat and skins, and sometimes persecuted out of fear. However, boa constrictors rarely, if ever, attack humans except in self-defense.