Red-Tailed Boa

STATUSLeast Concern


DIETSmall mammals, other reptiles, and birds

RANGENorthern Mexico through Central and South America; also on islands off of the Pacific and in the Caribbean

HABITATPrimarily rainforest

Red-Tailed Boa

Status: Not yet classified

Description: Although boa constrictors are commonly thought of as being one of the largest snakes, they are actually a modest size snake. Female boas are larger than males reaching about 12-15 ft, while the males generally reach 6-10ft. Boa constrictors are gray, cream or brown with dark saddle shaped bands. At the end of the tail the spots become a red/brown color. This is where the common name Red Tail Boa comes from. Boas do not possess fangs, instead they have rows of teeth that are the same size. They are a non-venomous snake and they have two functional lungs while most snakes have an extended right lung to better suit their shape.

Habitat/Range: Boas are found in Northern Mexico through Central and South America. Boa constrictors can also be found on islands off of the Pacific and in the Caribbean. Boas are found primarily in the rainforest. They can be found in clearings and on edges. They can also be found in woodlands, grasslands, dry tropical forest and semi-desert.

Diet in the Wild: Boa’s are carnivores that feed mainly on small mammals, bats, and birds.

Diet in the Zoo: Large rats and mice

Predators: Young boa constrictors are extremely vulnerable to predation from birds of prey, mammals and reptiles. Humans are the main predators of adult boa constrictors, although they rarely if ever attack humans.

Life Cycle and Social Structure: Breeding season is usually during the dry season from April to August. Fertilization is internal and they are ovoviviparous; the young are born live and independent soon after birth. The average litter is 25, but can range anywhere from 10-64. Most female boas are not reproductively active every year, but every other year. About half of the female boa population reproduce each year.

Life Span: in the wild they tend to live around 20 years, but this is increased by 10 to 15 years when they are kept in captivity. One of the oldest observed in captivity lived 40 years at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Interesting Facts:

  • The species Boa Constrictor is divided into many subspecies. Currently there are 9 recognized subspecies.
  • Humans, even children, are far too large a prey size for Red tail boas.
  • Boa constrictors are non-venomous. They constrict their prey to kill it.
  • It takes a boa constrictor 4-6 days to fully digest a meal.
  • Boa constrictors have good vision and can see into the ultraviolet. They can also detect vibrations on the ground and through the air through their jaw bones.

Conservation Message: Red tail boas are very popular in the pet trade. They are often sold as juveniles at barely a foot long.

These snakes play and important role in the wild. They help control the rodent and opossum populations. Opossums are known to carry leishmaniosis, which is a disease transferable to humans, so snakes such as Boa constrictors help regulate these populations and reduce the disease transmission to humans.

What You Can Do: Research pets before they purchase them. These snakes (like many others) live a very long time. They require a lot of money for food and can often grow to be very long. Releasing a pet snake into the wild when an owner no longer wants it is not an option. Because people have discarded of pets in this manner, many invasive species roam the everglades in FL, pushing out native species.