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Herpetoculture

Tarahumara Mountain Boas

(Boa constrictor imperator)


Basic Description


     Tarahumara boas are without a doubt in my top two of favorite snakes to keep and breed. They have great temperament, a compact size, and a beautiful pattern rich with pink and mocha tones. I have been holding back some of the exceptional boas that include pink and peach color that when combined with the brown and mocha coloration of their pattern makes for a great looking boa constrictor. I will work with these boas until my end; I am absolutely in love with them.

     Tarahumara boas are found in the high elevations of the Sierra Tarahumara which lie in the northern states of Chihuahua and Sonora Mexico. Their habitat is sometimes referred to as “Sky Islands” which is usually fairly high in elevation (4000 ft) Tarahumara boas have the ability to tolerate some cooler temperatures unlike some of their Central and South American cousins. The boas have a dark arrow on the head that is pointed to the front, and they tend to have a busy pattern with black to brown coloration with mocha mixed in. They have grey and pink background colors that tend to lighten in the evening and night and darken during the day. See the included photos.


Enclosure Recommendations


     I like to keep adult boa constrictors in seamless cages with a glass front. I look into them often and spend quality time with them. Holding your boas often will keep them acclimated to being handled. I provide a climbing branch for them and use a ceramic heating element for heat from above. I do use under the belly heat for gravid females. Heating from above will promote climbing and provide better viewing of your boa. I generally do not pay too much attention to humidity; I probably should however. I always provide a large water bowl with fresh drinking water. The large water bowl seems to be enough humidity for them; I have never had any shedding issues. I use sani-chips for substrate which seems to work just fine. Other than during breeding, I do not mist my Tarahumara boas. Occasional misting should be fine as long as the sani-chips do not get wet. I would imagine that newspaper or paper liners would work well for the mountain boas as long as their enclosure is cleaned often.

Feeding


     I feed my adult male Tarahumara boas one small rat every week; however, they generally do not feed while breeding. I give adult female boas medium rats roughly once a week except while they are gravid. Gravid females will feed on small rats while gestating their young but they do eventually stop eating usually about one month before they drop their litter.

Great care should be taken to preserve the dwarf nature of these boas in captivity. It is thought that Tarahumara boas are the smallest of the boa constrictors; however, power feeding for rapid growth or over feeding for long periods can alter the dwarf size of these boas.

I feed babies conservative sized meals on a weekly basis and increase the size of the food as they grow. The loose rule that I follow is to feed my boas a rat that is a little bit more in girth than they are. This approach seems to work well especially if I vary the time between feedings. Again, as responsible hobbyists, we should be careful to preserve the dwarf size of these boas. It should take three to three and a half years for Tarahumara boas to reach adult size (38 inches to 48 inches).

Critical Husbandry


     If you follow basic guidelines for caring for your boa, then your boa should do well. Remember to spot clean your boa’s cage at least once and week and disinfect the water dish frequently; this rule applies to most herps in captivity. Spend quality time with your boa so you can observe changes in behavior and keep some sort of basic record for feeding and shedding. You will be much more likely to enjoy your boa constrictor if you keep it acclimated to being handled. You will find the hobby of keeping boas a rewarding one if you know you are doing all you can to keep your pet healthy. For more information on keeping boas I recommend Vincent Russo’s book The Complete Boa Constrictor.