What is a Puerto Rican Boa?

Jacob Queen

The Puerto Rican boa is a large snake that lives on the island of Puerto Rico. A fully-grown Puerto Rican boa is normally about 7 feet long, but 12-foot specimens have been recorded on a few occasions. These snakes are grayish brown, and juveniles have a noticeable pattern of spots. Instead of venom, the snakes rely on constriction to kill their prey, squeezing them until they suffocate, and then swallowing them whole.

Little data exists on the boa found on the island of Puerto Rico.
Little data exists on the boa found on the island of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican boas primarily eat warm-blooded prey. This may include everything from small mammals like rats to many different kinds of birds. Some scientists think that the juveniles eat small reptiles as a main source of food, but there isn't very much data available about young Puerto Rican boas. One skill of the Puerto Rican boa that separates it from most other snakes is its ability to catch bats. They have been observed hanging down in front of active bat caves and catching the bats as they exit in the evening hours.

Rats are a common meal for the Puerto Rican boa.
Rats are a common meal for the Puerto Rican boa.

The snake is primarily a night hunter. These animals generally rest in the daytime, often coiling in tree limbs or stretching in the sun. Some scientists think that the time spent in the sun may help them digest their food more easily by increasing their body temperature. If they feel threatened, the snakes can be dangerous. They don't have poison, but they can still inflict a painful bite, which can easily lead to an infection.

There isn't generally a huge amount of information available about the mating habits of the Puerto Rican boa. Breeding seems to occur in early May, and scientists know that they have live young, which is common to all different boa species. Typically, the mothers will give birth to about 25 infant snakes. The newborns have to fend for themselves immediately and receive no protection or aid from their parents.

Puerto Rican boas are quite rare and are hardly ever seen by people—this has resulted in an overall lack of data on the species. The actual population is generally hard to estimate because the snakes are so elusive. Some scientists think they are much more prevalent than anyone previously suspected, but there isn't enough evidence to confirm that. Despite the uncertainty on numbers, the Puerto Rican boa is currently listed as an endangered species. This is partly because their natural habitat is somewhat threatened by deforestation, and partly because they are frequently targeted by hunters for various reasons.

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