What is an Amazon Tree Boa?

C.B. Fox

The Amazon tree boa, Corallus hortulanus, is a medium-sized arboreal boa constrictor found east of the Andes in the northern region of South America. These snakes are alert and aggressive and are most active at night. This boa can live in a wide variety of habitats, including rain forests, temperate forests and grasslands, though it always makes its home in trees. Though the Amazon tree boa lives in areas threatened by deforestation, it is not endangered.

An improperly-cleaned bite from an Amazon tree boa may cause a bacterial infection.
An improperly-cleaned bite from an Amazon tree boa may cause a bacterial infection.

Amazon tree boas grow to an average of 5-6.5 feet (1.5-2 m) and remain relatively slender throughout their lives, weighing an average of 0.8-1.3 pounds (400-600 g). These snakes are characterized by their wide, triangular heads, bulging eyes and long, sharp teeth. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, which seem to appear randomly on individual snakes. Specimens with shades of brown, gray or black are often referred to as “garden phase” boas, and those with shades of red, orange and yellow in their coloration are referred to as “color phase” boas. The snakes might be solid in color or banded, speckled or saddled with geometric shapes.

In the wild, Amazon tree boas eat a variety of small animals. Being a tree-dwelling species, the snakes usually eat birds, though they will also eat rodents, small reptiles and amphibians that they come across. The snake is a constrictor, which means that it kills its prey by strangulation and does not possess venom. Though the Amazon tree boa is not poisonous, it does have long teeth, and captive specimens are known for being relatively aggressive. Their bites can be painful and, like other reptile bites, can lead to infection.

The Amazon tree boa is a slow-growing snake that can live for 20 years or more. Females reach sexual maturity at three or four years old. Males are technically capable of mating after their first year, though they remain too small to mate with adult females until their third or fourth year. In the wild, Amazon tree boas usually mate in the cool, dry season and give birth to four to 14 neonates after seven to 10 months. Like other boa constrictors, the Amazon tree boa does not lay eggs but rather gives birth to live young.

A common snake in the pet trade, the Amazon tree boa readily adapts to life in captivity. Snakes are available that are bred in captivity or caught in the wild. Specimens caught in the wild tend to be more aggressive and often are reluctant to feed on dead prey.

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