Before committing to ownership of a boa constrictor, be sure you will be able to handle the size and strength of a full grown snake for the 25-30 years your snake might live. A full grown boa constrictor (red tailed) will reach 8-10 feet long and weigh up to 50 pounds. These are very muscular and thick bodied snake. While generally quite docile in temperament, it is important to respect the inherent strength of these animals and that could inflict serious injury to a person. As a general rule, for a constricting snake over 6-8 feet it is a good idea to have a second person present while handling the snake, just in case assistance is required. Keep in mind also that large, secure housing is required for these snakes, and as adults need large prey such as large rats or even rabbits.
As with other reptiles, owners should choose a captive bred specimen. Captive bred reptiles are generally more healthy and docile than wild caught counterparts. All boa constrictors fall under CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species) and are listed in CITES Appendix II (threatened in their native habitat). Additionally, Boa constrictor occidentalis is on CITIES Appendix I - endangered - and requires permits to buy and sell. Fortunately boa constrictors breed fairly readily in captivity.
When choosing a boa constrictor, look for the following signs of a healthy snake:
- firm, muscular body
- no loose fold of skin
- tongue flicking
- clear eyes
- no signs of retained shed (check eyes, end of tail)
- no visible external parasites
- clean vent
- scales healthy, no brown or curled edges
- no wounds on skin
- reacts to handling by coiling firmly (but gently) on hand/arm, and relaxing a bit after a while