The common boa constrictor belongs to the family "Boidae" which is composed of small to large snakes which constrict their prey. The common boa lives in tropical North, Central, and South America with a few individuals in the Caribbean. It has a wide distribution of habitat types it utilizes, and can be found in dry mountainous areas to grassland and woodland areas; on the ground and high up in trees. These boas can live for over 20 years and grow as large as 10 feet from nose to tip of tail. Their coloration can vary, but generally they are a brown-grey base color with a pattern of brown-red 'saddles' from just behind the head to the tail. This pattern is very effective camouflage in jungles and forests.
Boas give live birth, and can have litters of 20-60 individuals, but average to around 30 individuals born. They usually breed in the dry season (summer months). When born, the offspring can measure between 15-20 inches in length. After birth the young are completely independent and grow quite rapidly in their first few years, after about 4 years their young boas will mature and be able to reproduce on their own. Their ability to produce such large litters makes them very adept as an invasive specie. Having not true predators as adults, once they reach full size they are left alone to reproduce and grow the population.
Boas are very common in the pet trade, but similarly to the burmese pythons they grow quite large and can become a handful to take care of - especially when dealing with an individual who is not well socialized of friendly. In Florida there is a population of boas living in the wild. The common boa constrictor was first reported wild in Florida in 1990. There are established populations which have been breeding and self-sustaining for over 10 years. These large constrictors are very common in the pet trade and it is thought that their establishment is from animals being released or escaping from pet owners and distributors. There is also the possibility of snakes escaping when facilities are destroyed by hurricanes. For these boas it is thought that a reptile distributor released several hatching boas intentionally in south Florida in an attempt to establish a population in the Everglades. This animal is a threat to native animals, as it feed son lizards, birds, and mammals both on the ground and in trees. The established populations can potentially impact native species on a local level.
Locations of those found in Florida
Boas are constrictors and eat whole prey including small-medium sized mammals and birds. Their diet mostly consists of rodents, but will consume large lizards and mammals as large as ocelots. The younger boas feed on mice, birds, bats, lizards, and amphibians of increasing size as they grow. They are ambush predators and will often sit in one location waiting for prey to cross their path. In areas with low prey availability they will hunt at night. In Florida, they pose a threat to many species of threatened birds and mammals.
Florida Fish and Wildlife
UF Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
Animal Diversity Web
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Ferrets and Friends, LLC has four writers bringing you information on a variety of topics from pets to wildlife, education to conservation, and from new developments in our business to information about our industry. Learn something new each week!