What is a Red Tail Boa?

DM Gutierrez

The red tail boa, common boa or Columbian boa is a large snake native to Mexico and parts of Central and South America. Boa constrictors are carnivores, trapping and suffocating their prey by squeezing them with their strong bodies. This snake is not poisonous, although its sharp teeth continue to grow and replenish throughout its lifetime.

The red tail boa is native to Mexico, as well as parts of Central and South America.
The red tail boa is native to Mexico, as well as parts of Central and South America.

The red tail boa is usually tan or brown with red splotches on its long prehensile tail. Females are typically larger than males at between seven and nine feet (2.13-2.74 meters) in length. Some red tails have been reported to be as long as 13 feet (3.96 meters) and weigh up to 60 pounds (27.22 kilograms).

The red tail boa may feed upon mice.
The red tail boa may feed upon mice.

These boas generally live in tropical climates as far north as Mexico and as far south as northern Peru. When young and small, these boas are often found in trees. As they grow larger, they usually keep to the ground, living in abandoned animal dens and hollow logs. They typically sun themselves on warm rocks and can be found half in and half out of the water when resting.

The red tail boa eats live prey and generally disdains carrion. Rodents, like mice and rats, are usually their preferred food, but they will also eat birds, monkeys, and iguanas. These snakes have a keen sense of smell and specialized heat sensors on their faces that assist them in prey detection.

After the boa coils around its prey, it squeezes it until the prey suffocates. The snake then unhinges its jaw and swallows the kill whole. These snakes go long periods without eating, sometimes only eating once a week, especially when the prey is large. In the winter season, the red tail boa may not eat for weeks or even months.

Female red tail boas give birth to an average of 30 live babies at one time. These babies eat live prey almost from birth and grow very quickly. Males reach maturity at one and a half years while females are mature at three years.

Boa constrictors are hunted for their skins and meat. They are also captured and kept as pets. Because of hunting and trapping practices, the red tail boa is generally considered an endangered species. Habitat loss due to farming, livestock grazing, and human encroachment is also putting this boa at risk in the wild. Many zoos, animal parks, and herpetologists raise red tail boas in captivity to make sure this type of snake does not become extinct.

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