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Red Tail Boa Constrictors in the Wild

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

Releasing a Red Tail Boa

Releasing a Red Tail Boa

Red Tail Boa Constrictors in Brazil

My husband is called the snake man of Northern Brazil. Although not his official title, it is one of the ways he is referred to here in our area. Where we live, many people are afraid of snakes. It is a fear which has passed from family member to family member. Although many have never met anyone bitten by a snake, there are stories told and retold, in which the snake becomes bigger, the fangs longer, and the danger greater.

Now in our neighborhood, if someone has a boa constrictor snake hanging around their house, they will come and get my husband. He has been known to climb trees, and has retrieved an 8' red tail boa.

Although twice weekly trash collection is available in our area, many people still pile their trash in a cleared area and burn it once a week as they have done all their lives. Leaving trash like that attracts rats which attract snakes.

Where Does the Red Tail Boa Live?

In the wild, the boa is from the tropical regions of the Americas. In fact, the area we live in and conditions are perfect for these boa constrictors hence the reason they are widespread throughout the region. We have scrub land on the other side of our wall, and a source of water.

Arboreal, Land, and Water

Many of the articles I have read about red tail boas, continue to talk about these snakes as arboreal. It's true they do spend a good deal of time in the trees, but we have also see them on the lawn, in long grass, under logs, and in the lakes.

Technique for Catching Boa Constrictors

At 69 years old and with one artificial leg, my husband will climb the tree to remove the offending snake. He wiggles the fingers of his left hand near the head of the snake to distract it, and then grabs behind the head with his right hand. Once back on the ground, the neighbors will gladly offer him a sack for him to take it away. The top is secured and once back home, the snake is transferred to a large cloth pillow case. My husband will keep them long enough to calm the animal down, remove any parasitic ticks and sometimes take a photograph before we release it here at our home. They normally head straight for a tree and will stay in the high branches until the evening.

If the snake is on the ground my husband will use a heavy duty snake stick.

Holding a red tailed boa

Holding a red tailed boa

Red Tailed Boas For Sale

Before you buy a red tailed boa, you need to understand that your small snake will eventually become a huge snake, perhaps up to 10' long and may live 20 years. Not only is it a big snake, it's a big commitment.

When you go on vacation, who is going to look after it? Unless you know someone who also loves snakes, you can forget asking family members. They may say yes to a dog, cat, or even a hamster, but to ask them to look after a 10' snake, the answer is likely to be no.
I am not trying to put you off buying a boa constrictor, I am saying it shouldn't be a snap decision. Offer to take care of one for someone during their vacation.

The benefit of living where we do, we get to see them and they take care of themselves.

Red Tailed Boa Feeding

Captively bred boas will be fed mice and rats which have been humanely killed. As the snake matures, it can have chicken and rabbit, again, those which have been humanely slaughtered. Meat given to a pet snake should be sourced from a reputable dealer and not from a grocery store, where generally speaking, meat is of poor quality. Although there are videos on YouTube where owners are feeding their snakes live food, some people opt not to do this as it could injure the snake. Obviously in the wild, like we see here, it's part of nature.

What we see red tailed boas eat in the wild.

Snakes are hunters and, in in the scrub land here around our area they will eat rodents, iguanas, birds, and I suspect cats as well. There used to be feral cats but we haven't heard or seen any for a few years now. We also used to have a population of two sizes of opossums which again we haven't noticed any longer. I suspect the numbers of the cats and the opossums are kept in check by the boa constrictors. Although in our area, we don't have rabbits, there is a type of wild guinea pig here called a prea which a boa would quite easily consume. We also have quite a few monkeys here which could easily become a welcome meal. The red-tailed boa hunts both in the trees and on the ground and we have even seen it pull an iguana into the water (Pictures below). Both the iguana and snake are excellent swimmers but with the squeeze being put on the iguana, it didn't stand a chance against the boa.

Wild Boa Constrictor Attacking Iguana

The photos above need a little explaining. The middle of the day is often the best time to see iguanas roaming around our farm, relaxing by the lakes and munching grass and clover. My husband was photographing one of the iguanas near our back lake. He had to return to the house to get another battery for his camera.

When he returned to the lake, I heard him shouting for me to come out to the back.

In the lake was a red tailed boa coiled around the iguana my husband had been photographing a few moments before. Being the photographer that he is, he saw this as an excellent photo opportunity. I had other ideas. We enjoy having iguanas walking around the area, and I told my husband to help that iguana. By this time the boa constrictor's head was over the head of the iguana and if we didn't do something soon, the iguana would have been this snake's lunch. Both the iguana and the red tail boa are comfortable being in the water, but with the squeezing from the snake, I didn't think there would be an escape for the iguana.

Let me say, we normally do not interfere at all with the wildlife here, other than to discourage hawks ripping up bird's nests. This time, I felt we needed to intervene. Using a stick we lifted the snake enough for it to lose its grip on the iguana which swam away rapidly.

After a few moments floating in the lake, we think the iguana was in shock and trying to catch its breath, it climbed out and rested in the grass.

Some of our neighbors keep birds in cages and the boas have been known to go across the rafters to get to these caged birds. They can't get the birds but are attracted to the bird songs and calls. That is normally when we get a call in the form of a shout across the lake or a whistle and a wave. This is then followed with people pointing and saying, “cobra”. The word for snake in Portuguese is cobra.

Snake Handling Skills

You may be wondering where my husband acquired this skill of snake handling. He owned the oldest pet store in London. There they had pythons and other snakes for sale and rehomed snakes when the owners were unable to manage them.

As you can see from the photos, this author chose to be on the other side of the camera. I do not share his love of snakes but will willing snap a photo of him handling one.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Mary Wickison


Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 25, 2017:

Yes, Mark, that is exactly what they think. Locally, they are getting better and will bring us snakes. Mostly in bags but once some kids had a rope around one and dragged it to our house.

Just last week we finally got the trash truck up our road for a pick up. This will make it easier for everyone to get rid of their trash instead of burning it. The trash brought in rats which brought in snakes. I suspect that one change will minimize the number of snakes we see.

Mark dos Anjos DVM from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 25, 2017:

I really appreciated that comment about letting the snake go on your property. The last boa I found was walking on the beach, and I took it home and let it go in my property so that no one would kill it. Ceara is probably like Bahia, in that almost all cobras are considered venenousa.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 17, 2017:

Hi Larry,

I'm with you, I just let them be. The 'boy scout' husband of mine thinks differently.

He is also a photographer and likes to get shots other people wouldn't dare to take.

He has handled snakes since he was a kid and also had a pet shop which took in large snakes others couldn't deal with.

Thanks for reading, following and your comment.

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on October 16, 2017:

It was so interesting reading your article, Mary. The photos really added to the story. I can honestly say I have never met a snake that I liked, hahahaha. I grew up and have lived all my life in the eastern U.S., first I was born and raised in PA and now my wife and I live in NC. I have seen many snakes in my life, many poisonous, but I give them their space.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on September 05, 2017:

Hi Penny,

I'm pleased someone who has handled snakes has responded. As someone who has had a snake, you'll know that the fear of snakes in some people is irrational but very real for them.

I can't think of another animal which people feel so strongly about.

Where we live the population are afraid of them and so my husband encourages the teenagers and younger kids to feel the snake when he is holding it. By doing this, he hopes to help them understand how important snakes are in the bio-diversity of the area.

Thanks for reading, and your comment.

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on September 05, 2017:

I had a ball python, and adored him, but they don't quite reach the size of a boa. I would have another Ball, but that's as large as I would go for a pet for me anyways. I've encountered several snakes in the wild but not a python so far.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 30, 2017:

Hi Shauna,

We have a soft spot for the iguanas who visit here. I hate to think of the snakes eating them, but I know that is nature.

I should pen an article about the iguanas.

Thanks for reading and your comment.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 30, 2017:

I don't like snakes and would be scared to death of a boa! I don, however, love iguanas. My brother used to raise them. They're pretty cool and very pretty. As you know, their skin feels like tapestry. I'm glad you decided to save the iguana, Mary.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 20, 2017:

Hi Dora,

Having a farm throws up all sorts of new adventures. I have a deeper understanding and respect for snakes, but I still don't pick them up. I know they have a place in a balanced eco-system and are necessary for the control of many animals.

Thanks for reading and your continued support.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 18, 2017:

Mary, you do experience some excitement on your farm! I hate snakes but I love hearing about all these snake incidents. Thanking heavens, that there is so much distance between your place and mine. More stories, please.

Glen Rix from UK on August 15, 2017:

I'm fretting about one or two tiny silverfish in the bathroom! You are clearly made of stronger stuff than I

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 14, 2017:

Hi Glenis,

We moved here in 2009.

Wow, that is a good question and it's hard to say. I think there is no point getting worked up about it. We have small frogs in the toilets. They hide under the rim, and when the toilet is flushed, they are forced out. I have even had one jump and land on my eye when I was having a shower.

One time I even had a tarantula in the toilet! I didn't notice until I turned to flush.

The leeches that attached themselves to me when I do work in the lake, I just pull off. I figure if they use them in hospitals they can't be all bad.

I've been bitten, stung, and had various allergic reactions.

I have a theory that if I leave an animal or insect alone, it will probably do the same to me.

I know my husband would like to tame one of the monkeys we have around it, but I have put my foot down, I don't want any more animals.

Thanks for the question and reading.

Glen Rix from UK on August 14, 2017:

Well, I think your husband is a total hero. Thank goodness that the worst that I have to cope with here in England is the occasional spider in the bath. I'm curious to know how long you have been living in Brazil and if it took very long to become accustomed to creeping and crawling creatures.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 14, 2017:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

Oh, your comment made me laugh.

I used to be the type who ran a mile when I saw a wasp or flap my arms wildly. Now, I pretty much take everything in my stride.

I remember once, I had to take my cell phone half way across to field to get a signal. While I was on the phone, there was a black and gold female grass snake which was being followed by a lot of males. Some of them passed between legs. I knew they wouldn't bite, so I just stood and watched as nature happen as if I wasn't there.

I do question some of the things my husband picks up. He is like an inquisitive boy scout on a camping adventure.

I'm glad you found this article entertaining. Don't let this put you off visiting Brazil, heck, the States have some nasty snakes.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 13, 2017:

Hi Ryan,

I lived briefly in Florida and every time I went for a walk and heard something in the bushes I was convinced it was an alligator stalking me. Thank goodness we don't have anything like that here.

We are still impressed by the wide variety of animals we see here. Because we don't harass them or chase them off, all sorts of reptiles, mammals, and birds show up. We just observe and I tell you, it's better than TV!

Glad you liked the article, thanks for your comment.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 13, 2017:

Good Lord, Mary! I'd drop my camera, sh*t my pants, and run like crazy if I saw one of those. I'm marking Brazil off my places that I ever want to visit. I'll enjoy it through your articles. And to think you get in that water and cut those cat tails. Your husband is a piece of work. A real brave guy. What an article!

Ryan from Louisiana, USA on August 13, 2017:

Living in Louisiana we have seen our fair share wild snakes and sometimes gators. Nothing to be messed with. Great article and very informative.

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