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Adopting a Constrictor/Snake: 10 Things You Need to Know First

Southern Florida has a problem which snakes.

 

This is not a funny story or the start of a joke. The reality of the matter is people adopt constrictors like boas and pythons when they’re small. The snakes mature rapidly and they get big fast.

 

People who don’t do their research are often surprised by just how fast. When that happens, many snake owners decide the easiest way to get rid of the snake and make it happy is by returning it to nature.

 

This simple, well-meaning act has devastated bird populations and created the necessity for an annual hunt of these giant snakes in the Everglades. In the wild, the snakes can grow up to 20 feet long in the right conditions.

 

Before you make the commitment to adopt a constrictor (or any type of snake) know the following things:

 

  1. You’ll need a cage that’s least 6-feet long. However, the size of the enclosure varies with how large the snake is that you’re adopting. You may need something even larger than that.
  2. Snakes like to climb. That means for the snake to be content in its enclosure you will want it to have high walls and possibly some branches or logs that you place diagonally in its home.
  3. These big snakes like warmth. you’ll want a heat source with a reliable digital thermometer so that you can set the exact temperature within the enclosure.
  4. The water dish should be for more than just drinking. Believe it or not, these large snakes enjoy being able to submerge themselves in the water on occasion.
  5. Give them their own space. The optimum enclosure would include two places to hide. One on the warm side of the cage and one on the cooler one. Leafy areas and branches, as mentioned earlier, can also provide a stimulating environment.
  6. Boas eat less frequently than we do but feeding them does require some intestinal fortitude (more about that in tip #10.). Juveniles eat about once a week, while adult constrictors should be fed every 10 to 14 days. Unlike humans, boas won’t eat if they’re not hungry.
  7. Have your snake checked for mites before you buy it and follow the recommendations for check-ups.
  8. While boas can live up to 40 years old in captivity, the average life expectancy is between 20 and 30 years. That’s still a large time investment and it will see you through a lot of life changes.
  9. Your boa will want to acclimate to its new home before eating so don’t bring it home and immediately try to feed it.
  10. You will need to decide between feeding your snake live, frozen/thawed, or freshly killed mice and rats. The benefit to living prey is the enrichment or having to kill its own meal. However, mice and rats are quick-moving animals. It’s possible they could escape the enclosure. Also, boas only eat when they’re hungry. If you place a rodent in the cage and the boa doesn’t kill it immediately, the rodent may harm your snake by biting it and it is unlikely your constrictor will kill just to kill. That leaves thawed or freshly killed mice and rats. Either option is fine, just make sure the boa is hungry when you provide its food.

 

Boas can make great pets but they should never be surrendered to the wild. If after adopting your boa you no longer find it suits your lifestyle or if you can’t take care of it, never release it outdoors. Instead, sell it, give it away, or relinquish it as part of an Exotic Animal Amnesty Program. Zoo Miami and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offer these “forgiveness days” where they will take the pet and ensure it is not released into the wild in order to help control the non-native species entering our ecosystems.

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