Rosy boas are very inquisitive yet timid. They love to explore, and enjoy human contact. However, they can become stressed and overwhelmed if they’re not cared for responsibly.
Rosy boas thrive in captivity because they are excellent feeders. On the flip side, they may occasionally bite if they confuse handling time with feeding time. Thankfully, misunderstandings like this can be prevented if you learn how to look after your pet snake.
- 1 Are Rosy Boas Good Beginner Snakes?
- 2 Fun and Interesting Facts About Rosy Boas
- 3 How to Identify a Rosy Boa Snake
- 4 What are the Different Types of Rosy Boa?
- 5 What Are the Different Rosy Boa Morphs?
- 6 How Long Do Rosy Boas Live?
- 7 How Big Can a Rosy Boa Grow?
- 8 How Much Does A Rosy Boa Cost?
- 9 How Often Does A Rosy Boa Shed?
- 10 Setting Up an Enclosure for Your Rosy Boa
- 11 Brumation
- 12 What Does a Rosy Boa Eat?
- 13 How to Handle a Rosy Boa Snake (step-by-step guide)
- 14 What to Do If a Rosy Boa Bites
- 15 Key Points to Remember
Are Rosy Boas Good Beginner Snakes?
If you’re new to the world of snakes, it’s no surprise that you’re considering a rosy boa for a pet. These snakes might be easy to care for, but they’re certainly not boring.
They are very responsive and intuitive animals. Rosy boas are the ideal pet snake for beginners because they are a low-maintenance, high-reward pet.
- They do not grow too large (17” – 36” on average)
- They are ground dwellers so do not require a tall vivarium
- They have a calm temperament – most rosy boas can be handled with ease
- Non-venomous snake
- Affordable to purchase (rosy boa prices vary according to subspecies, and morphs, but there is one for every budget)
- Beautiful colors and patterns – some subspecies such as Baja rosy boas are particularly striking
- Rosy boa snakes do not require a particularly varied diet
- They do not excrete as much as other snakes, so it’s easier to keep their vivarium clean
- They can live for a very long time, so they should be a well-considered purchase.
- Occasionally, rosy boas may inadvertently nip your hand when you go to pick them up because they have such as good feeding response (there are ways to prevent this misunderstanding).
- Some subspecies prefer an arid climate (low humidity), so you’ll need to mimic these conditions in your snake’s vivarium. This is quite straightforward once you know what you are doing.
As you can see, the pros largely outweigh the cons – especially as most of the cons can be counteracted by handling your snake sensitively, setting expectations, and pitching vivarium humidity at the correct level.
Fun and Interesting Facts About Rosy Boas
Rosy boas are beautiful creatures with a unique set of characteristics. Understanding more about their lineage and biology can help you comprehend your pet’s behavior and anticipate their needs.
Rosy boas are native to the American Southwest (California and Arizona) and Northern Mexico (Sonora and Baja). In the wild, they’d encounter hot and dry climates for most of the year.
The scientific name for this species is Lichanura trivirgata. Lichanura derives from the Greek “lichanos,” (i.e., forefinger) and “oura,” (i.e., tail).
Trivirgata derives from the Latin “tri” (i.e., three) and “virgate” (i.e., striped). This refers to the characteristic three stripes found on the back.
Rosy boas earned their common name thanks to the color of their bellies. Their rosy or salmon-colored bellies can identify many rosy boa snakes (particularly those from the Baja region).
They are one of the slowest snakes in the world. In the wild, this snake lies in wait until its prey is within easy reach. Rosy boas are unable to flee danger quickly, hence why they prefer to have several hide boxes when in captivity.
Rosy boas are related to the boa constrictor. However, rosy boa snakes are one of the smallest snakes in the boa family.
There are only two species of boa snake native to the U.S. The rosy boa is one of them, and the rubber boa (Charina Bottae) is the other.
The rubber boa is occasionally misidentified as a rosy boa because they look similar. However, rubber boas have larger scales on their head and do not usually have stripes on their backs.
When it comes to taxonomy, there is intense disagreement over the classification of rosy boas. Snake handlers can help taxonomists by not releasing snakes into the wild that have been bred in captivity.
Most snakes have evolved to have only one functional lung. Boas are relatively primitive and still have two functional lungs. The males also have pelvic spurs (remnants of legs found on each side of the snake’s vent).
These characteristics indicate the snake’s close relationship to its lizard ancestors. Indeed, many snake handlers are intrigued by rosy boas as they are more primitive than other popular, easy-to-handle snakes.
Rosy boas are ovoviviparous. In simple terms, this means the eggs are nurtured inside the mother’s body and born live (baby rosy boas are about 12” long).
The majority of snakes lay eggs and incubate these outside the body, so it’s amazing to witness a rosy boa birth. You may also find this info on the snake reproduction process of interest.
How to Identify a Rosy Boa Snake
Rosy boas are prized for their beautiful appearance as well as their pleasing temperament. Here are the key characteristics of a rosy boa snake:
- They are the diameter of a golf ball – rosy boas are slim but have noticeable muscle tone.
- They have a small and indistinctive head to help them burrow – this gives them a harmless and endearing appearance.
- Smooth scales on the head – this is rare for a constrictor snake.
- They are 17”-36” in length – females are longer and slightly wider than males.
- Short and stout tail (the tail is much shorter than a garter snakes’ tail, for example)
- They weigh 450g on average.
- A very slow-moving snake. If threatened, it will typically curl up in a ball.
- Most rosy boas are gray or light-colored and have three stripes running down their backs.
- The stripes could be orange, brown, reddish, or black. Some may also have additional patterns on their backs.
- Naturally occurring (and selectively bred) morphs do exist (see below). As such, it’s possible to purchase Albino rosy boas or rosy boas with unique markings.
- Pelvic spurs – male rosy boas have two small bumps either side of their vent. These look like very small hind legs.
Rosy boas are occasionally mistaken for other snakes, but if you look closely, you’ll be able to tell a rosy apart from rubber boas, garter snakes, and corn snakes.
What are the Different Types of Rosy Boa?
The categorization of rosy boa snakes is a disputed topic. Information is changing all the time, so it’s difficult to specify precisely how many subspecies of rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata) there are.
Most specialists believe there to be five subspecies of rosy boa snake in the wild. These include:
|Rosy Boa Type||Distinctive Features and Characteristics|
|Arizona Rosy Boa ( t. arizonae)||Often has chocolate brown or black stripes. Some have questioned whether this is a subspecies or just a variation of one of the other subspecies.|
|Coastal Rosy Boa ( t. roseofusca)||Often has blotchy, irregular red stripes against a gray, cream or light-colored background. Sometimes, the stripes can be difficult to recognize as they are not as bright as other subspecies’ stripes. Coastal rosy boas are most likely to be mistaken for rubber boas.|
|Baja Rosy Boa ( t. saslowi)||This rosy boa is held in high-regard by beginner and experienced snake handlers. It’s predictable temperament, manageable size, and vivid stripes make this subspecies very desirable.|
|Mexican Rosy Boa ( t. trivirgata)||Mexican rosy boas are the smallest of all the subspecies so also make a popular choice. They are also brighter colored than other snakes such as the coastal rosy boa.|
|Desert Rosy Boa (L. t. gracia)||This is the largest of all the subspecies (some can grow up to 48”). Desert rosy boas have vivid red or orange stripes/patterns on their backs. They also have quite a lot of black pigment separating the lower back stripes from the belly.|
If you’ve never handled a snake before, you might find an adult Desert rosy boa quite intimidating. Moreover, in the wild, Desert rosy boas would encounter very arid days and somewhat humid nights.
As a beginner, you might find it hard to recreate a habitable environment for this type of snake. It’s true to say that Desert rosy boas occasionally struggle when kept in captivity, whereas other subspecies are almost guaranteed to thrive.
Generally speaking, beginners should opt for a Mexican rosy boa, or Baja rosy boa, because these snakes can tolerate a wider range of climates. Not only that, they tend to be quite a lot smaller than Desert rosy boas.
Nevertheless, if you’re willing to dedicate time towards observing and looking after your pet, you might enjoy the challenge of caring for a Desert rosy boa.
What Are the Different Rosy Boa Morphs?
They are one of the most collectible snakes because there is lots of diversity to be found in their colorings and patterns. Over time, morphs (variants) have developed within the rosy boa species.
Morphs can develop in one of three ways:
- Naturally Occurring – Genetic deviation occurs naturally. This could result in an Albino rosy boa, for example.
- Captive Breeding – Mating two different natural morphs can create a designer morph, for example – a Snow (a solid white rosy boa).
- Selective Breeding – Developing new colors and patterns over many generations.
If you have a little more money to spend, and you’re looking for a genuinely unique snake, there are some very impressive rosy boa morphs available from snake breeders.
How Long Do Rosy Boas Live?
Rosy boa snakes can live for a long time. The average age for a rosy boa in captivity is around 20 – 30 years, but they can live much longer than this. The oldest rosy boa on record was 61 when it died.
According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, chronic stress is the biggest threat to captive reptiles, because stress interrupts homeostasis.
Reptiles that become overly stressed in captivity are unlikely to live full lives. Indeed, some stressed-out snakes find it difficult to feed or regulate their body temperature when in captivity.
As mentioned, rosy boas have a naturally calm temperament and are usually able to thrive in captivity (as long as the living conditions are satisfactory).
So, if you’re willing to create a comfortable environment for your rosy, it should live a long and stress-free life.
How Big Can a Rosy Boa Grow?
Baby rosy boas start their lives at around 12” long (30cm). By the time they’re 3 years old, they’ll be anywhere between 17” and 36” (43cm – 91cm).
This species can sometimes grow considerably larger than this. For example, Desert rosy boas sometimes grow up to 44” (112cm). Opt for a Baja rosy boa or Mexican rosy boa if you want a snake that’s on the smaller side.
Do Rosy Boas Eat Other Snakes?
In the wild, rosy boa pursue birds, small mammals (baby rabbits, deer mice, and kangaroo rats) and occasionally small reptiles. This may include other small snakes, but this would be the exception rather than the rule.
Many species of snake are capable of cannibalism if they are kept and/or fed together. Rosy boa snakes are not renowned for cannibalism, but if you’re a beginner snake handler, it’s a good idea to keep one rosy boa to a cage to prevent this from occurring.
Not only that, these snakes can become overly stressed if they are housed together.
Are Rosy Boas Dangerous?
As you’ve probably already gathered, rosy boas are not dangerous to humans. They are non-venomous, so even if they were to bite you, you wouldn’t suffer any severe consequences.
Rosy boas rarely bite humans; the only exception being if they think they’re being fed when you try to handle them. If a rosy boa felt threatened, it may curl up in a ball, hide its head, and expose its tail. It might release an unpleasant musk on you, but this behavior is quite rare in rosy boas.
How Much Does A Rosy Boa Cost?
The cost of a rosy boa snake can vary considerably. For example, you can buy a rosy boa for $50-$75 if you’re not too concerned about its locality.
If you want to purchase a rosy boa from a specific locality (i.e., from a particular valley), you will need to pay a bit more.
Breeders have to spend more time and money finding suitable local snakes to breed so they will add a premium for these types of snakes. Snakes of this type might cost $75-$150.
Highly sought-after morphs such as albinos, or snow rosy boas, can command significantly more. So-called “designer” morphs can cost several thousand dollars.
Of course, there are many costs of snake ownership that need to be understood.
How Often Does A Rosy Boa Shed?
The rate at which a snake sheds its skin will depend on many factors:
- Age – In their first months of life, rosy boas may shed their skin once a week or once a fortnight. As they grow older, this will settle down to once every 1-2 months. Adult rosy boas over 4 years of age will shed their skin once every 3-6 months.
- Feeding – If your snake is feeding well, it’s more likely to shed its skin (according to the timeframes above). Indeed, if your snake isn’t shedding as expected, this could be a sign that it’s not getting enough food.
- Humidity – Snakes require enough humidity to be able to shed their skin. It’s crucial to provide your rosy boa with enough humidity to shed, but not too much that it becomes uncomfortable or develops a respiratory condition.
You’ll know when your rosy is about to shed because its eyes will start to go milky and glazed over. From this point, a rosy boa can take several days to shed its skin. This is longer than it takes for other small-to-medium-sized snakes to shed their skin.
Having said that, if your rosy boa is taking more than 3-4 days to shed its skin (after its eyes have glazed over) this could indicate that there is not enough humidity in its enclosure.
Setting Up an Enclosure for Your Rosy Boa
If you’re willing to put a little time and effort into creating a suitable enclosure, you won’t need to spend time worrying about your snake’s welfare.
It’s crucial to select an appropriate enclosure, provide a suitable substrate and furniture, and create a temperature gradient that mimics the natural environment.
We’ll go through each of these points step-by-step.
Size of Enclosure
Most adult rosy boas are between 17” and 36” by the time they are 3-4 years old. As is the case with most snakes, rosy boas will feel exposed in a very large vivarium, but it is vital to make sure they have enough space to stretch out.
Juvenile rosy boas will be comfortable in a 10-gallon tank or vivarium for the first 0-3 years of their lives. Most adult rosy boas would be comfortable in a 15-gallon tank.
If your adult snake is on the larger side (i.e., above 22” in length), you should opt for a 20-gallon tank. Females tend to grow larger than males so will probably do better in a 20-gallon tank, or perhaps even larger in rare cases.
These tank sizes might sound on the large side, but they’ll seem much smaller once you’ve placed hide boxes in the enclosure. Rosy boas need several hide boxes in their enclosures, so it’s important to find a tank that will accommodate these.
According to EOL, rosy boas are terrestrial snakes so do not require lots of height in the same way that other snakes do. As such, focus on purchasing a tank with sufficient length and width; height is less of a priority.
When looking at the dimensions of a tank, follow this rule: the perimeter of the base of the tank should be at least double the length of your snake. So, a 13” x 6” vivarium would have a perimeter of 38”. Therefore, it could house a snake no longer than 19”.
Type of Enclosure
You’re free to choose a glass, wooden or plastic enclosure; the most important thing is to make sure it is secure. Often, glass tanks/aquariums with lockable lids are the safest option.
Rosy boa snakes sometimes rub their snout on lids and walls in an attempt to escape. They can become very persistent – to the point of self-injury. Indeed, this behavior can become much more pronounced if they feel stressed or overexposed.
Providing sufficient hide boxes can help reduce stress and stop them from nuzzling the lid or walls of your tank. Nevertheless, don’t underestimate the importance of providing a secure lid to prevent your rosy boa escaping.
Rosy boa snakes do not require as much humidity as many other snakes because most are native to deserts or low-humidity environments. Too much humidity can cause chronic stress, infections, respiratory illnesses, or poor feeding response.
The Desert rosy boa is native to the Mojave Desert, where daytime humidity averages 10-30%, and nighttime humidity rises to a maximum of 50%. As such, if you’re keeping one of these snakes, you shouldn’t allow ambient humidity to rise above 50%.
Ideally, humidity should be much lower than this in most parts of the enclosure. You should provide one humid hide box for your snake so that it can access more humidity when desired (see below for how to create a humid hide box).
The Mexican rosy boa (a more popular choice for beginners) is native to the Sonoran Desert, where humidity ranges between 20 and 60%, depending on the time of day and season.
If you’re keeping one of these snakes in captivity, you have a bit more leeway regarding humidity. Again, a humidity hide box should have a humidity of around 60%, but the entire enclosure should not be this humid.
But how can you be sure humidity is at a safe level? You can purchase a hygrometer very cheaply from pet stores or online. This can accurately measure humidity levels – both in your hide boxes, and your enclosure as a whole.
Substrate for Rosy Boas
Rosy boas burrow in the wild, so try to provide them with a substrate that allows them to move freely. The best options are aspen shavings or newspaper pellets. Importantly, these substrates will not retain too much moisture so will keep humidity under control.
As mentioned, provide your snake with one humid hide box. This hide box should be lined with a substrate that retains moisture, such as cypress mulch, Reptibark, coconut husk or sphagnum moss.
Spray this substrate with water every couple of days (particularly in the days before your snake sheds). Avoid using a porous substrate in the entire cage as this may encourage too much humidity, leading to medical conditions such as scale rot.
A water bowl will introduce a significant amount of humidity to your vivarium. As such, you need to take care when providing water to your rosy boa. There are several options to consider which should all help keep humidity under control. For example:
- Provide your snake with a small, shallow drinking bowl that’s not large enough to soak in, and that’s too heavy to knock over. Place this drinking bowl on the cooler side of the vivarium and measure humidity levels regularly (aim for approx. 25-30% ambient humidity).
- Limit your snake’s access to water. Place the bowl in its vivarium for one hour per day.
- Move your snake to another enclosure to drink water once a day.
The first option is preferable in most cases. Some rosy boas tend to gorge on water, which can affect their appetite, or encourage regurgitation.
As such, even if you leave the water bowl inside the vivarium, it would be prudent to remove it 24 hours before feeding and replace it 24 hours after they’ve finished eating.
Snakes like to burrow, hide, and isolate themselves from predators. Their ability to seclude themselves is all the more critical when in captivity. If you want your snake to feel comfortable, try to provide a minimum of 2 hide boxes (3 is ideal).
Why should you provide 3? Well, apart from providing your snake with lots of privacy, 3 separate hide boxes will provide them with 3 thermoregulation options.
You should place:
- One hide box on the warmer side of the cage
- One hide box on the cooler side of the cage
- One in the middle (this is the humidity box)
As mentioned, line the middle hide box with a humidifying substrate (i.e., sphagnum moss, cypress mulch, Reptibark) and spritz this substrate with water once every couple of days. Your rosy boa will probably desire more humidity during the night, or when it’s about to shed its skin.
Placing a humidity box in the middle of the enclosure means your snake needn’t choose between temperature and humidity. It’s good to give your snake as many options as possible to support their overall wellbeing.
Hide boxes can be purchased inexpensively. They can also be made from old Tupperware, a hollowed-out log or repurposed cardboard box. Remember, rosy boas tend to nuzzle so make sure there are no sharp edges if you do choose to repurpose something.
Lighting and Heating
Whereas lighting is a requirement for some reptiles, rosy boas can function perfectly well without any additional lighting. You should aim to house them in a room with enough natural light to support their circadian rhythm.
While lighting might not be crucial for their health, heat is. Snakes rely on their external environment to regulate their body temperature. Their enclosure must be able to offer them a variety of temperatures, so they can warm up and cool down as required.
For the most part, rosy boa snakes are comfortable at 22-30°C (72-85°F), but they’ll need to warm up and cool down depending on the time of day, time of year, and personal preference.
The easiest way to provide a temperature gradient is to place a reptile heat pad under one-third of the cage. You should be aiming for 31-32°C (88-90°F) at the warmer end of your enclosure, and 21°C (70°F) at the cooler end. It’s advisable to check the temperature regularly with a sensitive thermometer.
In most cases, you can turn the heat pad off (or down) at night. Snakes living in the wild would encounter cooler nighttime temperatures. The only exception will be if the ambient temperature of your room dips well below 21°C (70°F) during the night.
In many cases, it’s a good idea to provide cooler temperatures over the winter months to mimic the conditions for brumation. This will be described in more detail below.
The cleaning schedule alone confirms that rosy boas are low-maintenance snakes. Whereas most small snakes’ enclosures must be deep-cleaned weekly, a rosy boa’s enclosure would remain habitable for 4-6 weeks.
Although you don’t need to deep-clean too often, you should tidy up the cage regularly. Check the enclosure daily for signs of excrement and clean this up immediately to prevent infection from spreading.
It’s worth noting that snakes sometimes burrow their excrement in the substrate. They may also excrete in their hide boxes or water bowl. So, be observant when you’re keeping on top of your pet’s enclosure.
Once every 4-6 weeks, follow these steps to deep-clean your snake’s enclosure:
- Wear protective gloves and use cleaning products/tools reserved specifically for snake care.
- Fully dispose of all substrate. Don’t try to reuse any bits that appear to be clean.
- Wash the tank and all the furniture in hot soapy water.
- When it has dried, apply a scent-free disinfectant.
- Any furniture that cannot be sanitized (i.e., a log, or a cardboard hide box) should be discarded.
- Wait for the tank and furniture to dry before assembling. This is all the more critical when caring for a rosy boa snake because humidity needs to be kept under control.
Rosy boas living in the wild do not hibernate as such, but their activity slows down a lot over the winter period. This period is known as brumation (or dormancy).
Added to which, rosy boas do not feed during the depths of winter as they would not be able to digest food at such low temperatures.
Many snake handlers are reluctant to cool their snakes over the winter months, but this can have many benefits for your snake. For example:
- Breeding – If you want to breed rosy boa snakes, you’ll need to allow your snakes to cool over winter otherwise they are unlikely to breed.
- Appetite – Cooling your snake over winter will help to improve its appetite. If a snake is refusing to eat any time of year, cooling it (safely) for a month can help to strengthen its appetite.
- Temperament – Cooling a snake over the winter period can help to promote overall well-being. In turn, this will ensure your snake stays calm and even-tempered.
Cooling your snake is not difficult to do, but there are some things to keep in mind. Follow these steps when encouraging your rosy boa to brumate:
- In most scenarios, cool your snake from December to early March.
- Only brumate your snake if it is fit and healthy. It needs enough body fat to survive this period so don’t attempt this if your snake is underweight.
- Fast your snake for 14 days before you start lowering the temperature in its enclosure. This will make sure all food is digested. If any food remains indigested, your snake will be unable to digest this once the temperature drops.
- Clean the enclosure thoroughly and lay some clean substrate.
- Start cooling the temperature gradually over 3-4 days, until the enclosure is 13°C (55°F). This can usually be achieved by turning the heat mat off and moving the tank to a colder part of the house.
- Minimize the amount of light your snake receives during the day.
- Check your snake regularly and provide it with clean water but do not handle it unnecessarily or give it any food.
- At the beginning of March, try to warm the enclosure gradually (over 2-3 days), until it is back up to the original temperature gradient.
- Allow your rosy to return to the normal temperature and begin feeding it after 1 week. Start it on a small pinky mouse to avoid it becoming full too quickly.
As mentioned, brumation is not obligatory, but it is likely to support your snake’s health.
What Does a Rosy Boa Eat?
In the wild, a rosy boa would hunt small birds, reptiles, and mammals. The bulk of their diet would be baby rabbits, deer mice, and kangaroo rats. As such, the most suitable diet for a captive rosy boa is small rodents.
Pinky or fuzzy mice are most suitable for young rosy boas. When your snake becomes an adult, it should feed well on adult mice and fuzzy rats. These can be purchased frozen from pet stores or online. They should be fully defrosted before being offered to your snake.
How Often Should I Feed a Rosy Boa?
Many beginner snake handlers worry that they are feeding their snake the wrong amount of food.
The following guidelines should prove useful:
|Age of Snake||Rosy Boa Feeding Schedule|
|A baby (0-1 years)||Once every 3 days – 1 pinky mouse|
|Juvenile (2 years)||Once every 4 days – 2 pinky or fuzzy mice|
|Young Adult (2-4 years)||Once every 5 days – 2 large fuzzy mice or pinky rats|
|Adult (4-7 years)||Once every 5 days – 2 adult mice or fuzzy rats|
|Mature Adult (7 years+)||Once every 6-7 days – 3 large adult mice or 2 rats|
Rosy boas can grow at quite different rates, so these are guidelines only. To check if you’re feeding your snake a reasonable potion, look at their stomach/mid-section after a meal. There should be a slight bulge.
Moreover, there are some exceptions to the guidelines above. When snakes brumate in the wild, they do not eat.
If you plan to mimic these conditions in captivity by lowering the ambient temperature, do not try to feed your snake as they are not able to digest food in cold temperatures.
Snakes will also refuse food when they’re about to shed their skin. It’s a good idea to keep a record of your snake’s shedding behaviors. This way, you’ll be able to predict their next shed, and you’ll know not to worry if there’s an unfinished meal.
How to Prevent Regurgitation
It’s not unheard of for rosy boas to regurgitate their food. This can seem worrying, but it’s not usually an indicator of something serious.
Instead, try the following tips to prevent it from happening again:
- Make sure the hotter part of the enclosure reaches near 31°C (88°F). Your snake may be too cold and unable to digest its food properly.
- Avoid handling your snake for 48 hours after it has eaten. Make sure your snake has access to its hide boxes, so it feels secure.
- If you typically leave a water dish in your snake’s enclosure, remove the bowl 24 hours before feeding. Replace it 24 hours after your snake has eaten.
- If your snake has been regurgitating its food, try it on smaller food, or cut the pieces into smaller portions. As a rule, some adult rosy boas prefer to eat several pinky mice, as opposed to larger mice. (If your adult snake is refusing to eat, see if it can be tempted with pinky mice).
- If the snake continues to regurgitate its food, it may have a medical condition that requires treatment.
How to Handle a Rosy Boa Snake (step-by-step guide)
Rosy boa snakes are a joy to handle, but they’ll need some time to adjust to a new owner. Not only that, rosy boas will sometimes misinterpret a human hand as food or threat, so it’s essential to be considerate and set expectations for your snake. Follow these tips when handling your rosy boa:
1) Introduce your Scent
When you bring your snake home for the first time, it will feel disoriented. The smell of your hand might seem very overwhelming, so it’s best not to try and handle your snake immediately.
Instead, place a worn item of your clothing in the enclosure for 2-3 days. This will help the snake get used to your smell.
2) Wash your Hands
It’s just as important to wash your hands before handling your snake as it is afterward. If you’ve eaten food earlier in the day, there will be some traces of this left on your hands.
If you don’t wash your hands before handling your rosy boa, you might incur a nasty bite.
3) Stay Calm
When going to pick up your snake, try to remain as calm as possible. Don’t swoop your hand from overhead as your boa will probably think a bird of prey is attacking it.
Instead, move your hand towards the snake in a sideways motion. You’ll need to pick up the snake gently yet confidently – see below.
4) Picking Up a Rosy Boa
First things first, snakes should not be picked up if they:
- Appear very stressed (i.e., curled tightly in a ball, hissing intently, etc.)
- They are soon to shed their skin
- They are brumating
- They have eaten in the last 48 hours
- They’ve recently arrived in a new enclosure (i.e., in the previous 4 days)
Always pick up your snake when it is facing away from you. As mentioned, move your hand in sideways and place one hand under the snake (around its middle-back). Pick up the snake and use your other hand to support it’s back.
Do not pick up your rosy boa from the tail, or from behind its head, as this could cause an injury. If required, you could use a snake hook to pick up your snake (see below), but there is a risk of causing injury if you’re inexperienced.
5) Let Them Explore
Rosy boas have a soft/squishy feel to their bodies, but they are strong and muscular snakes. As such, they don’t require too much support when you’re handling them.
Do not squeeze or restrain the snake as it is likely to become very stressed. Instead, allow it to move freely through your hands at its own pace.
6) Do not Touch the Head
Once you’re holding your snake, you might feel tempted to touch the top of its head. This is all the more tempting with rosy boa snakes because they have smooth scales on their head.
However, resist the temptation because most snakes will feel very intimidated by this.
7) Do not Place Around your Neck
No matter how calm and friendly your rosy is, you should avoid placing any constrictor snake around your neck. Instead, let your rosy explore your hands and forearms.
8) Take Things Slowly
Snakes need some time to get used to you so don’t try and handle them for too long in the first instance. Start handling your snake for a couple of minutes at a time, several days a week. If it is responding well, you can start increasing the contact time.
What to Do If a Rosy Boa Bites
Rosy boas will automatically let go when their ‘prey’ stops moving so try your best to stay calm if you do get bitten. If, for any reason, your snake does not release itself, gently press its head forwards until it releases its bite.
It’s rare for rosy boas to bite, but they might inadvertently bite you if they assume it’s feeding time. So, how can you stop this misunderstanding from happening? There are several strategies you could take. For example:
- Lift your snake out of its enclosure with a snake hook. This will prevent the snake from biting you.
- Gently tap the snake on its back with forceps to indicate it’s not feeding time.
- Feed your snake away from its vivarium, so it learns to associate feeding-time with a different location.
As you build a routine, it should begin to detect whether it is going to be handled or fed.
Key Points to Remember
As you can see, rosy boas are not difficult snakes to care for, as long as you have a good understanding of their basic needs. To summarize, the following key points are crucial when it comes to rosy boa welfare:
- Keep humidity under control – an ambient humidity of 25-30% is ideal for most rosy boas. Don’t forget to provide a humidity hide box and choose a water bowl that’s small and heavy.
- Make sure your rosy is warm enough – rosy boas need warm temperatures to thrive. The warmest part of the enclosure should reach 31-32°C (88-90°F).
- Handle them consistently and carefully –Your hand could be perceived as a predator or prey. Don’t swoop your hand over your snake as you go to pick it up. Also, remind your boa that it’s not feeding-time by touching it with forceps, or lifting it with a snake hook.
- Facilitate brumation (dormancy) over the winter period – this will enhance your snake’s well-being and improve its appetite as it grows older.
- Provide 3 hide boxes – this will allow your snake to feel safe and secure. Moreover, your rosy boa will be able to thermoregulate itself using the environment – as it would in the wild.
If you follow these steps, you won’t place your snake under any unnecessary stress. As a result, you’ll get to appreciate the many endearing qualities of a calm and relaxed rosy boa.