Boa constrictors are a very popular pet snake. But if you’ve never seen one in the flesh, all you know about is their reputation for being dangerous snakes. Could a boa constrictor hurt you?
Boa constrictors won’t cause humans any harm. For people who don’t know much about snakes, they have a fearsome reputation. But in real life, they’re docile, gentle, and less likely to hurt you than other common pets. Let’s find out more about what boa constrictors are like as pets.
Are Boa Constrictors Venomous?
No, boa constrictors aren’t poisonous (venomous). Types of venomous snakes include cobras, coral snakes, rattlesnakes, and similar. These snakes have venom that they produce in venom glands, which they inject into you using their fangs.
Boa constrictors don’t do that. First off, they don’t have fangs capable of delivering venom. Venom fangs have to be hollow, and boa teeth aren’t hollow. Boas also lack the venom glands that produce venom. Instead, they kill prey by constricting it. This is where the snake squeezes the prey to death, making it impossible for them to breathe, and stopping their heart from pumping.
Are Boa Constrictors Aggressive?
Boa constrictors are very docile creatures, compared to other snakes, and even other pets. They don’t strike out for no reason. Aggressive snakes are that way because there’s something wrong.
So, for example, it could be that they don’t like how you handle them. Or it could be that they’re hungry. Or it could be that their enclosure is too small. That’s when they’ll lash out, getting defensive in their enclosure when you approach.
If you’re thinking of getting a good snake for beginners, boa constrictors are a good choice. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, they can bite. For example, if you handle them at the wrong time, or if you move them around too fast. And that is quite dangerous.
Even getting bitten even by a non-venomous snake has a dangerous side. According to a paper in the journal MJAFI, if you don’t get the wound checked out, it could become infected and lead to septicemia or sepsis.
One thing you should be aware of is that the bigger the snake, the bigger the bite (generally speaking). And bigger bites hurt more than smaller ones.
Boas can get up to eight or ten feet long, especially as they get on in years. So, if you were to rile up your boa constrictor intentionally, their bite would genuinely hurt.
Compared to other snakes, they’re no more likely to bite you or hurt you. And they won’t attack you, either, unless you provoke them. Even so, as we said, they can grow quite large—this can be a challenge for novice owners.
They will try and get out of your hands and get loose. Not only that, but if they can, they’ll try their best to get out of their enclosure too. Having any snake on the loose is dangerous, especially to young children or pets.
Can a Boa Constrictor Eat a Human?
The answer to that is a definitive no. Boas are nowhere near big enough to eat a person. Only very few snakes worldwide are big enough to eat a person.
According to USA Today, reticulated pythons are big enough, just about. These snakes can reach more than twenty feet in length, which is almost triple the length of your average boa constrictor.
That being said, snakes can eat prey that’s bigger than their heads. They can open their jaws surprisingly wide, because they aren’t connected to one another like our jaws are. Boas can, therefore, eat something as big as a rabbit but not as big as a human.
How to Safely Handle a Boa Constrictor
When you’re handling a boa, whether it’s for the very first time or the thousandth time, you should follow these safety guidelines.
- Avoid handling a boa constrictor a) before they feed, b) before they’ve been to the toilet after they eat, and c) while they’re in the blue phase. If you try and handle them before feeding or while they’re in the blue phase, they’ll be grumpy and might bite. Handling them after they eat can make them regurgitate their food.
- Move them around slowly. If you were being held by an animal bigger than you, you wouldn’t like it if you were being thrown around and tumbled in the air. Snakes don’t like it either.
- Hold them very gently, rather than gripping onto them. If you constrain them, they’ll dislike you. Let them move around in your hands, and draw them back in if they get too far away.
- A calm owner has a calm snake; a panicky owner has a panicky snake. Remember that you’re far more likely to accidentally hurt them than they are to accidentally hurt you.
- Never handle any snake when you’re intoxicated in any way. It’s just not a wise move, because even if you don’t realize it, you’re less predictable and less competent when you’re intoxicated.
- If you ever find them constricting around you, don’t pull at their middle. They’ll get tighter. Instead, unwind them slowly but firmly starting from the tail.
If you’re trying to get your snake comfortable with you before they’ll let you handle them, this can be tricky. This is what’s known as cage aggression, where the snake is feisty and aggressive when you approach them in their enclosure. This can put off first-time owners from handling their pet.
If this is happening to you, follow these three simple steps:
- Open the lid or door of their enclosure. Let them get used to you standing there, with your hand dangling nearby, a good couple of feet away from them. Repeat at appropriate non-feeding times until they’re comfortable with you being there.
- Then, get them used to you touching them. Don’t try and pick them up, touch them gently on their middle. Again, they might react badly at first, but don’t ever react when they lash out (aside from moving your hand out of the way.) Eventually, they’ll get used to it.
- Then, pick them up around the middle. As a rule, don’t pick up snakes by the neck or tail. They don’t like it. Again, they might not be entirely comfortable at first, but they’ll adjust.
If they refuse your hand, use a snake stick to pick them up out of their enclosure. Sometimes it’s just feeling hemmed in that makes them mad, and they’ll be happy with you approaching and handling them so long as they’re not in their small enclosure. Either way, after repeated handling, they’ll get much more comfortable with you.
How to Safely Care for a Boa Constrictor
Aside from handling, there are other guidelines you have to be mindful of. These are to do with keeping your snake safe, and anybody else in your house safe. Not only that, but keeping your boa in the proper conditions will make them less easily frustrated and therefore safer to keep.
- Make sure the boa is housed in the correct environment. Their tank needs to be large enough for them; they require adequate heat and humidity, regular food and water, and hides for them to feel safe under. With these all correct and in place, your snake will be less frustrated and safer to keep.
- Make sure that their enclosure is kept shut at all times when you’re not around. If possible, get one that has a lock. A snake will take any chance they can to get out and explore. If they hide, somebody could stumble across them or spook them, leading to unsafe situations.
- Never handle them around children or other pets. The boa won’t attack them thinking that they’re food, but children and pets are unpredictable. Snakes don’t like unpredictability, and could get scared. The same goes for any adults that don’t have experience with snakes, especially people with a fear of snakes.
If you follow these guidelines, as well as the handling guidelines above, boa constrictors are exceptionally safe. Just remember that you are always the one who’s in charge of safety, not the snake—so if you do your job properly, things will only rarely go wrong.