Frequently Asked Questions
Q - By far, the single most common question I am asked is "Where can I buy a Rubber Boa?"
A - And I really do not have a very good answer. Local pet stores are not likely to regularly carry them as there are not many captive bred, and they are difficult for most to find. I have found some for sale by performing an internet search for "rubber boa" or "Charina bottae". Also, there are sometimes Rubber Boas for sale on the Kingsnake.com Classifieds. A few show up at the major reptile shows also. I do not have boas for sale, so kindly refrain from asking please. I don't have any other suggestions of where to look.
Let me step on my soapbox for a moment. This is one of the frustrations that I have with state wildlife management agencies. Many states were the boa is native prohibit or restrict individuals from breeding boas. There is, and always will be, at least some interest in keeping rubber boas. Yet, because of unfounded regulations, there are very few sources for captive bred rubber boas. Individuals then must turn to wild populations in order to get a rubber boa. With the limited demand that exists, and the difficulty of finding rubber boas, I have absolutely no concern that such collection will harm wild populations. But, it is ironic that through misdirected regulations designed at “protection”, state agencies ensure that rubber boas will be taken from the wild. I understand all of the counter arguments regarding increased interest leading to greater take, escapes, introduced diseases, cover for smuggling, etc that are argued by state agencies. The worries are largely unfounded, and stem from fundamental misunderstandings of reptile enthusiasts. Captive breeding should be allowed, if not encouraged. Just the opposite occurs – restrictions and punishments.
Q - Next most common question is: How do I find Rubber Boas?
A - The key to finding them in the wild is the temperature range at which they are active on the surface. Males will begin to be found under boards and other cover once daytime temps reach into the high 50 degrees consistently, and the threat of frost is over. Females will show up later as the temp gets warmer. An optimal temperature for finding Rubber Boas is from 65 to 75 degrees and sunny. This is cooler than the temperatures that most snakes are found at. Once the daytime temperatures are over 80 degrees and the sun is out, Rubber Boas head underground, and will not likely be found. Depending on the local habitat, they can be found under logs, rocks, or under discarded junk. Contrary to what has been written it is not necessary for Rubber Boas to be near freestanding water, although generally more common in moister habitats. See Habitat section of Photos Page for some pictures of common habitats.
Q - How do I tell a male from a female.
A - Males have easily visible spurs. Females may have spurs, but they will be smaller than a male's. Males are typically shorter and smaller than females. So if a Rubber Boa is 24" or longer, and fairly robust, it is a female. See Spurs section of Photos Page for examples. To determine the sex of a baby, a 10X magnifying lens may be necessary.
Q - Help! My boa has not eaten for a long time! What should I do?
A - Don't force feed it except as a last resort. Keep the snake cool (70 degrees), and give it plenty of time to decide it wants to eat. This could be up to 6 or 12 months. I recently acquired a full grown male that weighed as much as 70 grams in good condition, but after nearly a year of fasting was down to 35 grams! Too skinny for my taste, but I never force fed him. Once the spring courting was over, he ate. A large female can get as light as 50% of original weight before becoming really worried (they may loose 50% of original weight normally from reproduction). KEEP ACCURATE WEIGHTS of all your snakes, especially those not eating. If many moons have passed, you've tried all the tricks listed on the captive care page, and the snake is getting too skinny, it may be time to try to get a hold of baby voles, or deer mice. White-footed deer mice have been domesticated, and are readily taken by Rubber Boas. As they are swallowing the last bit of the mouse, introduce the nose of a lab mouse so they continue eating it too. This way they get the taste of lab mice, and generally will eat them from then on. I have created a pictorial page showing how to Chain Feed a Rubber Boa. Also see the Rubber Boa Feeding Page for more feeding information.
Q - What do I feed a baby Rubber Boa? It looks so small and unable to eat a mouse.
A - Newborn mice are quite small and easily eaten by baby Rubber Boas. Try to obtain a baby mouse as close to birth time as possible, and place it and the baby Rubber Boa in a clean deli cup or yogurt cup with the lid on, and holes in the lid for air. Place them together in the evening, and leave them alone all night. You may consider braining the pinky if the Rubber Boa has not eaten before as it seems to help elicit a feeding response. See the juvenile Feeding Page for further guidance. You can also go to Happy Herps feeding guide for further guidance on how to brain pinkies, and other methods for reluctant feeders. Note: Tease Feeding will not work for Rubber Boas as it is impossible to get them to strike.
Q - What are my state laws regarding catching or keeping Rubber Boas?
A - Your best off asking your state Fish and Game department as the laws may change without my knowledge. As of the time of writing, CA allowed the capture of 2 boas with a current fishing license, except for southern Rubber Boas, and no sale of any sort; OR has very little restrictions regarding catching or keeping, but does not allow sale of wild caught; WA does not allow you to even pick them up; BC downlisted them in the summer of 2001, and it may be possible to capture one now; ID, NV, UT, and WY appear to have only minor restrictions and limitations. All states prohibit the sale of wild caught. All states but WA and CA allow for some avenue of breeding native boas. Again - first check with your local F&G to be sure what the laws are before attempting to catch one, or sell any offspring you have as I could be mistaken.
More info to come . . . when I find some time ;-) Email me your questions.
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© 2001 by Ryan Hoyer.