The Red-Tail Boa: To Own or Not to Own

If you are in the market for an exotic pet… more specifically a larger snake that happens to constrict its meals, then the red-tail boa constrictor is the snake for you. Before you buy any pet, and especially an exotic pet, it is so important that you do your homework! With the Internet and so many resources available today, there is no excuse for potential pet owners to make informed decisions that are in their best interests, as well as the animals.
There are obvious considerations such as size. Adult females (in captivity) can exceed twelve feet in length and weigh nearly 100 pounds. At this size, a baby or small child can be mistaken for food. In my opinion, owning anything that can remotely pose a risk to a baby or child is stupid – and that is all I care to say about that.
In the right circumstances however, a red-tailed boa makes for a wonderful pet! I was in college when my roommate, Jim, and I decided to get one while taking a class in herpetology. We thought this was the way to really understand reptiles. We named him Meszoly, after our professor, and he was about thirteen inches long when we bought him from a pet store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Meszoly was fantastic as a pet for the entire time we had him. Mind you, this was in a college setting, with many people coming and going, parties going on, etc., and many different people asking to hold him. Meszoly, in virtually every situation, inside and outside, quiet and loud – never showed any sign of getting ready to bite someone! This, for the five years we had him, with his five and a half feet length and twenty-five pound weight. I came to believe he enjoyed all of the attention he received.

Red-Tail Boa

Red-Tail Boa

Like any other pet, red-tail boas come with responsibilities. This is something to consider when looking at that cute little ten-inch snake through the pane of glass. Soon, it will be a four-foot eating machine (well, once a month or so) that will need a rat or two! Where will you get your rats? From a pet store? Jim and I did that until we decided we were making too many trips… so we created a mouse-making factory in one of our larger closets. It worked just fine, too fine; we had hundreds of mice together with hundreds of mice smell and mice sounds and mice cages that needed mice cleanup. Ugh!
In the end, it was all worth it. One of the reasons was because Jim and I shared responsibilities. When we graduated from college in 1986, Jim’s mom happily took Meszoly into her home, which was great and funny because Meszoly had a good five inches on her! At eight feet, Meszoly made it to one of the local zoos, happy and healthy.
I think red-tailed boa constrictors are fantastic snakes. Of all the constrictors, in my experience, they are least likely to bite (constrictors are not poisonous, but larger animal bites DO hurt!). Red-tail boas are beautiful, with distinctive coloring. One more thing: I’d choose a boa (of any kind) over a python, every single time! I’ve found pythons to be more aggressive (meaning they are much more likely to strike and bite) and in general less friendly than boas. If you ever get the chance, look into a python’s eyes and tell me you trust that snake!

Best of luck, Boston John

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