Guest Author - Sylvie Leochko
The Boa Constrictor is a reptile belonging to the Boidae family and the Boa genus. Ten subspecies come from the Boa Constrictor species. They are: amarali, constrictor, imperator, longicauda, melanogaster, nebulosa, occidentalis, orophias, ortonii and sabogae.
Then natural habitat of this type of snake varies as it can live in semi-desert areas but prefers tropical rain forests as it offers the temperature, the humidity level, the natural cover from predators and the wide range of preys that is also plentiful. It is mainly living in Northern Mexico, Central America (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama). It also lives in South America (north of the 35 degrees), which includes: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela) as well as the Antilles. The Boa Constrictor is often found close to rivers as it is a capable swimmer. It is also considered to be a semi-arboreal creature as it can climb trees and shrubs to look for a potential prey. As it grows in size, it will become a terrestrial creature as climbing will become difficult.
This reptile is nocturnal as it hunts at night but can be seen basking in the sun during the day if the nighttime temperatures were too low. Its diet as a juvenile includes: small and medium mice, rats, birds, bats, lizards and amphibians. Its diet will change as it grows, and it will include larger preys such as: larger rodents, lizards and mammals. Boas have been known to occasionally feed on ocelots.
The Boa Constrictor is known as a predator that ambushes its prey. Although it can forage for preys, especially in regions with lower amounts of preys, it prefers to stay still until the prey shows up and surprises it with an attack. It will bite its prey with its short teeth that will hold the prey down while it coils itself around it and constricts its muscles to cause death by suffocation. The teeth will guide the prey to the snake's stomach. The digestion can take between 4 and 6 days to digest its food, depending on the size of the prey and the local temperature. Due to its low metabolism, the Boa Constrictor can go without food for a period of time as short as a week and as long as several months.
Like any other type of snake, the Boa Constrictor shed periodically. During that time, the substance between the old skin and the new one will cause the eyes of the snake to turn blue, making it obvious to all that it is currently going through shedding. During that time, the snake can attack more easily as its vision is impaired by the shedding process. When a snake is in captivity, it shouldn’t be fed or handled during that time as an attack is more likely to occur.
The Boa Constrictor is famous for the patterns on its skin. Its head is shaped like an arrow and displays some stripes. One stripe goes from the tip of the nose, on the top of the head towards its back. Two other stripes go from the tip of the nose, reach the eyes and are present on the side of the jaws. The size of the snake depends on its sex as males are known to be smaller in length and girth (6 to 8 feet) while females are larger (7 to 10 feet). The average length is 4 meters (13 feet) although snakes kept in captivity tend to reach larger sizes.
During the mating season, which occurs between April and August, the female's cloaca will produce a smell that will attract males and even fight their potential rivals. Although females can mate with multiple males, the opposite is also known to be true. During that period, the male and the female can mate several times. This process may last a few minutes or take as long as several hours. The ovulation may not happen for a while as the female can hold the male's sperm for up to a year but when it does, a large swell will appear. Then she will shed, which means she will reach the post ovulation period. This is when the time is calculated as she will give birth between 100 and 120 days later.
The female is ovoviviparous, which means it gives birth to live young. The size of the litter will vary between 10 and 65 young. Some may be still born as others may not have been fertilized or their development was incomplete. These ones are called: slugs.
The average life span of a Boa Constrictor living in its natural habitat varies from 20 to 30 years. In captivity, this snake species has been known to live up to 40 years.
The Boa Constrictor is one of the snake species appearing the document CITES. It is not considered endangered yet but some of their populations have suffered tremendously from being exploited by the exotic pet industry. Some are being killed for their meat and particularly for their skin, which is used to make shoes, purses and other leather items in demand.
This reptile may not be listed as an endangered species but will soon change status if we keep the demand high and alive. The existence of the Boa Constrictor depends solely on mankind to survive. One person may not do much but together, we can make miracles happen! Let's make that miracle happen, right now!
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