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What is a Rubber Boa?

R. Britton
R. Britton

A rubber boa is a non-venomous member of the boa constrictor family. Generally exceeding 32 inches (80 cm) in length, this solitary, nocturnal snake has a thick, muscular body. Native to the northwest United States, and a small area of southwest Canada, the rubber boa lives in wooded or forested areas that provide a cool, moist, shady environment with plenty of hiding places. These snakes are not aggressive to humans. As a result, some people keep them as pets.

As a member of the boa constrictor family, the rubber boa does not bite. Instead, it wraps itself around the victim, slowly tightening its muscular body as the prey exhales, thus suffocating it. Once the prey is lifeless, the snake loosens its coils and swallows the prey whole. The favored food source is baby mice, preferably before they develop fur. These snakes will also eat the young of other small mammals, birds, and reptiles, but will also consume adult prey and bird eggs if young are scarce.

Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

These snakes are excellent climbers, and although not strictly aquatic, they are effective swimmers, and will readily cross any bodies of water in their territory. A rubber boa generally remains in the same territory for most of its life. This species is most commonly found under rocks, in dark, cool crevices, or deeply buried in fallen leaves and other organic matter. They remain motionless and hidden for most of the day, usually only becoming active and venturing out at night to hunt for prey.

Threats to the rubber boa include any medium-to-large predatory birds and mammals, even domestic cats. This species has no effective active defenses. When attacked, the snake merely curls up, with its tail sticking up, looking like its head. The head and tail of the rubber boa are very similar in appearance, as both ends are blunt, and the head has tiny eyes which are hard to spot. The tail has hardened scales and can take some abuse from predators.

The most effective defense of the rubber boa is its color, which is usually a greenish brown to deep brown, and makes for impressive camouflage. Their reclusive and nocturnal nature also allows the snake to avoid many daytime predators. Rubber boas hibernate in the wild during the colder winter months. They become very lethargic and almost completely inactive. During this period, they are extremely vulnerable to predation because it takes time for this cold-blooded creature to warm up enough to escape.

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    • Veterinarian with a puppy
      Veterinarian with a puppy