Tuesday, June 17, 2014

“Oh, I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor!”

Have you ever heard of Shel Silverstein?  Oh, of course you have.  He’s a great writer!  He is best known for his silly and creative poems for children.  One of my favorites is called Boa Constrictor.  The title of this blog is a line from that poem.  I suggest that you check it out sometime!  Now, on to the star of the article! Meet Slayer, the Colombian Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor imperator)!

Slayer, World Bird Sanctuary's resident Boa Constrictor (photo: Lisbeth Hodges)

There are two subspecies of the Colombian boa constrictor, imperator (Bci) and constrictor (Bcc).  The Bci is the more common of the two subspecies in the pet trade.  The Bcc is extremely rare to be found in captivity, as well as in the wild. 

These beautiful snakes are native to the South American countries of Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador, and the Caribbean islands of Trinidad, Tobago, French Guiana, and Suriname. The habitat in these locations varies from tropical rainforests to arid semi-deserts.  Rainforest areas are more desirable habitats for these reptiles because of the humidity and the greater abundance of varied food.

Boa Constrictors eat mostly small to medium sized mammals, but will also eat lizards, birds, and amphibians.  Snakes have very slow metabolisms, and it takes from 4-6 days to digest their food after ingestion.  We feed Slayer 1-2 large rats once every two weeks. 

Boa constrictors have two lungs, but one is smaller on the left side of the body and the right side is larger and functional. Most other snakes only have their left lung present.

Just like other snakes, Boas use their tongue to smell their surroundings.  When they stick out their tongue, it catches molecules in the air and then retracts into the mouth and touches the Jacobson’s organ at the roof of their mouths.  This tells them what they smell near them, such as food.

When she’s not eating Slayer lounges around in her exhibit in the World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center, or travels with us to educational programs.  From time to time we take her outside and give her a bath.  These snakes are very capable swimmers and Slayer seems to love to get in her pool as you can see below.

Slayer enjoying a swim on the amphitheater stage (photo: Lisbeth Hodges)
 Female snakes are generally larger than the males.  Female Colombians range from 6-8 feet and males 5-7 feet.  The longest on record is 10 feet in length!  Boas can live a very long time in captivity.  The normal lifespan is 20-30 years.  The longest living Boa Constrictor reached over 40 years!  Slayer is at least 11 years old and we have had her since 2011.  We acquired her from a gentleman that could no longer care for her because of her size.  She is currently about 6 feet in length and weighs around 20lbs. 

Boas are ovoviviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young.  The eggs hatch inside the body and then the young exit the female.  They can produce 10-65 in a litter!  That’s a lot of kids! The females can also store sperm in their bodies up to one year! Amazing!

Slayer is available for adoption in our Adoption program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  This season she can be seen in the nature center at the World Bird Sanctuary (link) which is open daily from 8am-5pm.  Slayer is a very beautiful snake.  You should stop on by and visit her! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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