A boa constrictor is a nonpoisonous, solitary, and carnivorous snake that resides mainly in rain forests, but also may be found in a few more arid desert environments. As the name implies, the snake constricts, or crushes, its prey to death. Boa constrictors have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, can grow up to 13 feet (about 4 m) long and weigh as much as 100 pounds (about 45 kg).
Known for their distinctive blotches, the snake's marking detail includes a seemingly random assortment of lines, ovals, and diamonds. A boa constrictor relies on its color for camouflage. It’s skin can be green, red, yellow, brown, gray, or cream.
The boa constrictor is indigenous to Central and South America. It commonly thrives in the tropical conditions of rain forests, but can also make its home in deserts, savannas, or fields. The snakes often live in hollowed logs or burrows where they can avoid potential predators. Being strong swimmers, boa constrictors often reside near rivers as well.
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Boas also are nocturnal creatures and typically ambush their prey by first attacking with their teeth — the snakes have small teeth that allow it to hook onto its prey. While their prey is trapped, boas wrap around and constrict their victims until they die of suffocation. Boas swallow their victims whole, and typically hunt prey that includes mongooses, birds, possums, bats, and rats. Boas also strike when they consider themselves in danger.
By the age of four, boas are able to reproduce. Females store their eggs inside their bodies and give birth to live boas. Upon birth, the young are enclosed in a thin membrane from which they must escape. A boa can produce as many as 60 offspring at a time and usually give birth during the dry season. At birth, a boa averages 15 to 20 inches (about 38 to 51 cm).
During the first few years of existence, a boa will shed frequently. The snake typically sheds about once a month until fully grown. When a boa reaches adulthood, it discards its skin about every 2 to 4 months. During the shedding process, a boa often becomes defensive. While the new skin grows, a substance is released that causes the boa's eyes to become opaque, making it difficult to see. This causes the snake to be more apt to strike out wildly.
Several species of the boa constrictor are in danger of extinction. Boas are often hunted for their skin. The snake’s skin can be used to manufacture clothing and accessory items, such as shoes and handbags.