Dumeril’s Boa Care (Boa dumerili)

Erica Mede, CVT

Description

Dumeril’s boas are thick bodied snakes that reach 4-7 feet in length with males being the smaller of the genders.  Different morphs have kept this snake in popularity lately as does their slow growth (up to 5 years to reach adult length).  These snakes with good husbandry can reach 20 years in captivity although most live only 10-15 years.  The wild Dumeril’s are typically a pastel color or tan with dark blotches and a Rainbow boa like iridescence.

Natural History

These snakes are found only along the floor of dry forests in Madagascar .  There is a ban against the exportation of this particular species.  This species is listed as Cites Appendix 1 labeling this species as threatened with extinction.  The popularity and availability of this species in the reptile industry solely lies in the hands of breeders.

Sexing

Typically, the female of the species is larger than the male.  A veterinarian or experienced reptile keeper or breeder can sex the snake as well using a probe.  It is not recommended for inexperienced keepers to probe their own snakes as severe damage can be caused to the genitalia of the snake.  These snakes are not sexually mature until 3-5 years old.

Enclosures

Neonates can be maintained in a 10 or 20 gallon aquarium or similarly sized enclosure. Juveniles should be kept in enclosures that measure at least 2 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 14 inches tall.  Adults will require much larger enclosures with a 5 foot long, 3 foot long wide, by 2 feet tall but larger is definitely preferred especially in younger individuals who are curious. Enclosures can be custom made or ordered to size.  There are several internet companies that can ship pre-constructed cages or “assembly required” cages right to an owners door.  Glass aquariums are harder to maintain these snakes in as the size of the snake can be restrictive. Some owners opt for creative caging ideas such as large Rubbermaid containers for their growing snakes as well.  If modified correctly these can be good housing options.

Lighting

A photoperiod (light cycle) of 10-12 hours of light with 10-12 hours of darkness is essential to normal behavior and the overall health of the animal.  A snake with the lights always left on will become overly stressed and possibly fall ill or experience temperament changes.

Temperature and Humidity

The day time ambient (temperature of the air) temperature should be around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool end, and 80-84 degrees on the warm side of the enclosure.  A basking area should be provided and should be around 86-90 degrees.  At night temperatures should not fall below 75 degrees to maintain proper digestive activity.  At least two thermometers should be installed in the enclosure one inch above the floor on both the cool end and the warm end of the cage.  It is recommended to also have a third thermometer above the basking area.  Humidity should be maintained at 40-60% with the higher range being used during shedding.

Substrate

Substrate is always a controversial discussion.  Owners wanting to create a more naturalistic enclosure for their pets are encouraged to use non-particulate bedding when possible and frequently change substrate (weekly preferred) to prevent excess moisture build up as well as mold.  However, a naturalistic environment can still be created with the use of aspen or even indoor/outdoor carpet with some creative furnishings.  Newspaper and butcher paper as acceptable substrates although some owners find them to be rather dull.  The advantage of paper substrate especially for new individuals is the direct observation of fecal and urate output.

Enrichment

A hide box is essential for providing added humidity and security for this species.  A half log, card board box, commercial hide box, or an upside down plastic container that the snake cannot see through are all good choices.  Larger animals will require more creative hide boxes including litter pans, garbage cans, or custom made ones.  Natural and faux foliage is an excellent addition to any cage.  Dry leaves during the autumn season that have not been sprayed with insecticides offers snakes a new series of scents and textures to explore.

Feeding

Neonatal snakes can be maintained well on hopper mice or rat pups depending on the size of the snake.  Adults will be maintained on rats, quail, and in the case of large adults, rabbits.  Neonates are fed once every 7 days ideally and adults are fed every 14 days.  Frozen thawed prey items appropriately defrosted are the ideal food source.

Sources and Suggested Reading

The Snake: An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet, Lenny Flank
Snakes of the World, Scott Weidensaul (1991)
Red Tailed Boas and Relatives, R.D. Bartlett and Patricia Bartlett
The Biology Husbandry and Health Care of Reptiles Vol. 2Lowell Ackerman

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If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

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