Buyer’s Guide

So, you’ve decided that you want a pet red-tailed boa. Congrats! At this point you need to stop and ask yourself two questions:

“Do I understand this snake’s growth potential?”

Big-eyed little babies don’t stay small forever; this applies to applies to puppies and humans, and it definitely applies to reptiles. You can do this by joining a boa-specific Facebook group like Boa Constrictor Keepers (people are always happy to show off pictures of their pets), but ideally you need to see an adult to truly comprehend what you’re getting yourself into. Go to the zoo, meet up with someone from your local herpetological society, call up a reptile educator, whatever you need to do to make it happen.

“Am I capable of caring for an adult boa for its entire life?”

Boas are medium-large snakes that poop and pee like a large dog as adults. Large adults can be difficult to handle alone, require large (often custom-made) enclosures, and can live as long as 40 years. If you find yourself overwhelmed, they must be rehomed — setting it “free” in a local park or forest is not an option. Don’t buy one unless you’re prepared to care for it as a large adult!

Alright, deep breath. You still with me? Good. Moving forward…

Buy boa constrictor tips - cute boa tongue flick

Contributed by Crispy Snakes

How Much Does a Boa Cost?

Pricing varies by species and morph, with adults being more expensive than juveniles. You’re also likely to spend more when buying from a professional breeder than if you buy one at a pet store. However, expect to pay at around $50-$150 for a juvenile “normal” Central American or Colombian boa, which is the most common and least expensive boa species.

Buying Your Boa

The best way to get a boa is to buy it from a professional breeder — as in, someone who has been doing this for years and puts their animals’ health first, not financial gain. This helps to make sure that you’re getting a CB (captive-bred) individual, and reptiles produced by professional breeders tend to be much healthier than any you’ll find from an importer or the pet store. Furthermore, captive-bred boas tend to be more docile than wild-caught, which is an important quality in a medium-large snake.

You can also pick up a “used” boa from your local reptile community, rescue, or classifieds. The advantage of going this route is that you’ll usually save some money on the animal itself, as well as get some supplies in the deal. The disadvantages of buying a boa “used” is that it may be less tame or, more Read more on the subject here.

It’s better to start with a juvenile than an adult, especially if this is your first boa. Juveniles are smaller than adults, easier to house, less expensive, and although they can be more defensive, a strike from a juvenile is going to be less scary than experiencing the same from an adult.

Ask yourself: does morph/color matter? Morphs are genetic variations in a reptile’s color or pattern that differ from how the animal typically looks in the wild, like a designer version of the same animal. At this point, only B. imperator is available in morphs, but note that juveniles tend to have paler/less distinct coloration compared to adults. As they get older, grayish hues turn more yellow and/or brown. Pink, orange, yellow, and iridescence also develop with age. If color is important to you, ask the breeder for pictures of the parents and photos of the snake’s older siblings from previous pairings.

Don’t commit to buying the snake before you’ve had a chance to see and handle it. While it’s in your hands, ask yourself the following:

  • Are its eyes bright and clear?
  • Do the nostrils appear clear?
  • Listen to it breathe. Is it noisy at all?
  • Is the snake alert, flicking its tongue as it’s handled?
  • How nervous/defensive is the snake?
  • Does the body feel smooth and muscular?
  • Does it grip your hand/arm firmly during handling?
  • Does the tail wrap firmly around your hand/arm?
  • Are there any lumps, scars, or open wounds?
  • Is the spine kinked or deformed in any way?
  • Is the vent clean and sealed flush with the rest of the belly?
  • Are mites present?

Also get as much information from the breeder/previous owner as possible:

  • Morph, known het traits (if relevant)
  • Sex
  • Birth date
  • Feeding habits (live vs frozen thawed, prey size, mice vs rats, etc.)
  • Last feed
  • Temperament
  • Previous health issues
  • Previous sheds/shed issues
  • Last shed date

If you decide to buy the animal, ask the seller not to feed it prior to pick-up. This will prevent any possible regurgitation from relocation stress.

Buy boa constrictor - tips

Contributed by Tom Goody

Keep reading: