Rosy boas have found their place in the pet trade, as well as a place in the heart of many reptile enthusiasts. It is their gentle, well-tempered disposition and small size, as well as their ability to thrive in captivity that has made them a favorite of many keepers. With a size rarely exceeding 40 inches and a strong feeding response, they are the perfect boa for beginners. With only a few important guidelines they can be easily maintained and enjoyed for many years. Longevity in this species may exceed 25 years.
The most important rule with keeping rosy boas is that of using common sense. Though they may be easily kept, a couple very important guidelines must be met. These guidelines are based in knowledge of their habitat and habits. They are found in the hottest and driest deserts of the United States and Mexico, so they must be kept warm, dry and well ventilated. However, they live amongst rocks and boulders and are nocturnal through the warm months so as to avoid the desiccating desert heat, so moderation in air temperature is a must, and a hide box or substrate that is easily burrowed into is recommended. They are often found near intermittent water, or near desert springs, so fresh water should also be offered, but once again, the enclosure should stay dry. Well shortly get into the specifics, but it is important to understand that this document is based on the reader using common sense in making decisions dealing with rosy boas, and that the more information you have regarding their existence in the wild, the more success you will have with them in captivity.
Care should be taken in the selection of your first rosy boa. Of course the first consideration is to know your local and state laws. Many states have laws regarding the keeping of reptiles. A call to the Dept. of Fish and Game will often be your quickest method of information regarding state law.
Img C.1 Coastal Rosy Boa - L. t. roseofusca
At just a few hours old this captive bred rosy boa is enjoying the warmth of a caring hand.
A healthy rosy boa has smooth, vibrant skin/scales and a thick robust body. The tail should not be sunken in, nor should the vertebrae show. The ocular scale should be clear, and the eyes should be alert. The mouth/labials should be clear of debris and the snake should have a strong feeding response. When the snake sheds it should shed in one piece, and not flake off a little at a time. Ask the breeder if you notice anything out of the ordinary, and theyll often be of help in identifying potential health problems and how to avoid/fix them.
Once your healthy boa has been chosen, the enclosure should be ready to receive your little jewel. The enclosure should be large enough to allow the rosy to move around comfortably, but not so large that your boa is lost amongst the substrate. Whether it is glass, plastic or wood, it must have an escape proof lid, and be well ventilated. Steer clear of heat lamps and use under tank heaters, or heat tape. Care should be taken to make sure that the heat source is not so hot as to be a hazard to the snake, nor a fire hazard. A thermal gradient should be provided with the warm side ranging in the low 90s and a cool side around 75-80°F. A hide box may be provided and is often a good idea, especially for animals that are having difficulty acclimating to captivity. Fresh water should be provided in a tip-proof container, and on the cooler side of the enclosure, as to keep the humidity down. Many keepers will actually remove the animal from the enclosure and allow it to drink rather than provide constant water, or put water in for a couple days at a time once or twice a month. A branch for climbing may also be added as these boas are adept climbers and will make use of it. Here is an example of a simple enclosure:
Choice of substrate depends on the keeper. Sand is often attractive and helps in keeping the humidity low, but is heavy and difficult to change. Wood shavings are commonly used but need to be changed often and are less pleasing to look at in a display setting. The substrate question is one of preference and should be kept clean and simple. The underlying theme in the enclosure is simplicity. Intricate displays are often more difficult to care for, while simple enclosures provide a more accessible and often more healthy environment.
Feeding your snake is a rewarding experience, as it provides a glimpse into the lives of these gentle boas. They are aggressive feeders, with healthy animals rarely turning down a meal. Obesity is more often a problem than lack of appetite. Rosy boas have small heads, but can swallow prey items much larger than their head. A meal should be just large enough to make a small bulge in the snake after it has fed. Young boas will take newborn (pinkie) mice and older, larger snake will take adult mice, and/or small rats. Smaller meals offered more often is generally considered to be the best method of feeding. Though their prey may vary in the wild, lab mice is the best choice for captive boas, as they are the right size, easily attainable and generally disease free. Rosy boas should be fed every 5-10 days depending on the size of the meals. The best method for feeding your boa is to feed pre-killed lab mice by offering them at the end of rubber-coated tongs. Rosy boas will often strike after pressing their noses into the mouse, then tightly making one or two coils around the prey.
If your boa does not feed or is regurgitating meals, it is often a sign that something in the enclosure is not right. The temperature may be to high or low, or it may be too humid.
Img C.2 Mexican Rosy Boa - L. t. trivirgata
Common lab mice are readily accepted by all rosy boas.