Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Our Favorite Squeeze

     Believe it or not Mexico ranks #1 world-wide in reptiles, with more than 760 species. One of the many interesting species are boas. Over 30 boa species are found from Mexico to South America, with the greatest variety in tropical areas; including the coastal area of Jalisco. Boas are considered one of the world’s giant snakes, historically reaching up to 18 feet in length. Boas are closely related to pythons and anacondas and are often confused. Many of the exceptionally large snakes of the world are from boidae family, but not all boas are large. Some are no more than 20 inches long when fully grown.
     Not only do boas possess incredible strength, they have other interesting characteristics as well. Unlike other snakes, boas have two functional lungs, not just one. They also have hipbones and hind legs, which can be seen externally as a pair of movable spurs. Arboreal boas have extremely strong, prehensile tails. The rubber boa, which has glossy brown skin that resembles rubber, is a burrowing boa; and because of its blunt head and tail, it is sometimes called a two-headed snake.
     Boas may be arboreal, burrowing or terrestrial. Some are brightly colored, like the emerald tree boa of the tropics, or iridescent, like the rainbow boa. The best known is referred to as the common boa constrictor, which lives in a variety of habitats from Mexico to Argentina. Most are yellowish or grayish, with a pattern of dark brown dorsal saddles.
     In recent years wild boa populations have dramatically declined, not only due to loss of habitat; they are also highly sought after by carnivals and exotic pet dealers. Sadly, many are simply killed out of fear. Having triangular heads, elliptical eye pupils, and long, curved front teeth, they do resemble venomous vipers. Although they are not venomous, a wild boa can deliver a nasty bite. (That’s not to say captive boas don’t bite the hand that feeds them, they do!) No matter how gentle any wild animal seems, they can become aggressive at any moment, with little or no warning.
     Boas are generally nocturnal, but will occasionally venture out in search of food during daylight hours. The boa diet consists of small mammals, birds, lizards, even other snakes. Depending on the size of its prey, a boa may take several weeks or longer to digest its food. But that doesn’t mean they can just lie around resting, they need to be aware of their surroundings, or should I say, what’s in them; boas are a favorite on the jaguar and ocelots’ menu. As if that were not enough, birds of prey find them to be a tasty lunch as well.
     Whether one particularly likes snakes or not, boas are quite interesting. They are extremely adaptable, come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. And, unlike pythons and anacondas, boas are found worldwide. So, look out, Tarzan; that ain’t no vine!
     All snakes are protected by Mexican law. They are vital to a healthy eco system. So, if you encounter one on your property or in your home and would rather it not be there, please don’t kill it. Give us a call and we will be more than happy to relocate it to a more appropriate location. Even in the unlikely event it is a venomous snake as they may be used to produce much needed anti venom.