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Puerto Rican Boa

Range:

The Puerto Rican boa is endemic to Puerto Rico. It is more common on the karst region in the north-western tip of the island.

Habitat:

Puerto Rican boas are arboreal (live primarily in trees), but desend to ground level in rocky habitats. These snakes mainly use trees and caves for foraging and resting locations. Beside rocks and trees, light gaps and forest edges are frequently used for basking.

Characteristics:

The largest snake in Puerto Rico, this slender constrictor is non-venomous. As its scientific name indicates, inornatus (meaning unadorned), this species is not brightly colored. The color is generally variable but usually ranges from pale to dark brown or gray in color, with 70 to 80 darker colored blotches along the back from neck to vent. These dorsal blotches are generally dark-bordered with the centers of a lighter color.

Puerto Rican Boa Click to View Bigger Picture
Behavior:

These snakes mainly forage at night and bask or remain concealed during the day. Their activity peaks in times of high rainfall following prolonged dry spells. Generally this is at the time when seasonal temperatures, day length, and rainfall levels are increasing.

The boa feeds by seizing the prey in its jaws, wrapping several coils around the victim, and then constricting until the prey has suffocated. The prey is then swallowed head first. The feeding habits of the very young are unknown.

Reproduction:

Mating occurs at the beginning of the wet season and the females give birth about 6 months later, and only one clutch is produced annually. The 23-32 young boas are born live.

Interesting Facts:

These boas have been known to sit on cliff edges at the opening of caves and wait for bats to fly in and out. When the bats fly by, they strike and catch them out of mid air and then constrict and swallow them.

Adult Puerto Rican boas are the largest snake and among the largest predators in Puerto Rico.

Conservation:

During the first few centuries of Spanish colonization in Puerto Rico the boa was common, and oil produced from the fat of these snakes was a common export. The oil trade and deforestation have made these snakes hard to find and they are considered an endangered species. The introduction of the mongoose by man has also impacted their survival.

The Puerto Rican boa is listed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered, but there is a general consensus that the species is not as rare as previously thought. The species account in the “Red Book” of threatened wildlife describes the boa as very uncommon throughout its range, and further states that there are probably fewer than 200 individuals in Puerto Rico (Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife 1973).

Did YOU Know?
These snakes are still collected for the use of their oil, which is used as a folk remedy.
Puerto Rican Boa
Range
Class: reptile
Order: Serpentes
Family: Boidae
Genus: Epicrates
Species: inornatus
Length: Grows to 6-9 feet
Wild Diet: Small mammals, birds and lizards
Zoo Diet: Rats
Predators: Indian mongoose, feral cats, red-tailed hawks, the pearly-eyed thrasher. The Puerto Rican lizard cuckoo may prey on juvenile boas. Humans also hunt this species of snake.
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building


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