Red-Tailed Boa

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Boa Constrictor

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

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Program and General Information

The Red-Tailed Boa Constrictor is a large rainforest snake that resides in Central and South America. The RTBs are non-venomous snake, and kill their prey (mice, rats, bats, and small birds) via constriction.

They get their name from the reddish-tint of the scales on their tails.

Although quite common in the pet trade, it is a good idea to research before getting a constrictor as a pet, because they can grow up to 15 feet long.

Common Physical Features

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-Tailed 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 and Global 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

Boas are carnivores that feed mainly on small mammals, bats, and birds.

Behavior and Life Cycle

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.

Fun 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-Tailed 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 light spectrum. They can also detect vibrations on the ground and through the air using their jaw bones.

Conservation Messaging

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.

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.