Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata)
Erica Mede, CVT
This docile, slow moving, medium sized snake reaches lengths of 2-3 feet and live for over 25 years in captivity. Rosys are rarely prone to biting, preferring to ball up rather than attack. With a stout body and blunt tail this snake makes a great pet and is popular in the pet trade due to the morphs (colors and patterns) that can be created through selective breeding. Generally, Rosys have a rose or salmon color on the belly and dark orange spots (thus the name). The back of the snake is usually a dark gray, yellow, or tannish color. Rosys have three characteristic stripes that extend the length of the body and are naturally found in oranges, brownish reds, browns, and black. These snakes have small eyes with vertical pupils due to their nocturnal nature. There are several subspecies based on location of the animal.
Rosys are found throughout the south western United States and parts of northern Mexico . Generally, these snakes are found in rocks and rocky crevices seeming to favor granite outcroppings where available. These nocturnal snakes are found in the hottest and driest deserts in the United States and Mexico near intermittent water or desert springs.
Females are generally longer than the males. Males, however, have pronounced anal spurs on either side of the vent while females will have either no spurs or greatly reduced ones. Probing is an excellent way to determine gender but should be done by a confident snake keeper or veterinarian as damage to the snake can occur.
This species gives birth to 2-10 babies with the average female only having 2-5 at a time. Birth occurs about 4 months after successful mating. Rosy mating season is typically in early to late spring. When Rosys are born, they are generally 6-9 inches long.
There are many different ways to keep Rosy boas, as with any snake. A 10-20 gallon tank is a good size to keep a juvenile and a 20-30 gallon tank being better for adults. The larger the enclosure the better. Custom enclosures can be made and sweater boxes can be utilized as well for young and shy individuals. Floor space is much more important than vertical space in this species, strive to offer the most. Ventilation is important in this species especially since excessive moisture is poorly tolerated in Rosys.
Rosy boas prefer to burrow in their substrate, especially during the day light hours. If newspaper or reptile carpet is being used it is recommended to shred newspaper on top to promote burrowing behavior and to prevent undue stress on the animal. Aspen and Care Fresh can also be used as long as the aspen is agitated daily and bedding is changed weekly. Never use pine or cedar shavings as the aromatic oils are irritating to snakes.
Temperature and Humidity
The cool end of the enclosure should be 77-80F° and the warm end should be 90-92F°. These temperatures should be maintained with a thermostat and monitored with two thermometers ideally. One thermometer should be placed on the warm end an inch above the substrate and the other an inch above the substrate on the cool end of the enclosure. Under tank heaters, heat cable (outside the enclosure not in the enclosure), heat tape, and ceramic heat emitters can all be utilized to maintain air temperature.
Humidity should be maintained under 50% to keep this species healthy as they do poorly in high humidity. No special techniques are needed to keep the humidity low, just proper ventilation and placement of the water bowl on the cool side of the enclosure.
Cage accessories should consist of at least one hide box near the middle of the cage or two hide boxes one on each end of the enclosure. Hides can be as simple as a half a flower pot, half log, or as complicated as a rock structure (make sure it’s well anchored). Branches for climbing are encouraged and are wonderful for enrichment. Rocks added into the enclosure are appreciated by most Rosys as well. If rocks are being used, place them over a heat source and under an over head heat source to provide a warm basking area. A cold rock will leech body heat from a snake.
Rosys are nocturnal by nature and do not require intense lighting despite their desert habitats. However, it is recommended that a 2.0 ReptiSun UVB bulb be offered during the day light portion of the light cycle. All snakes can absorb the calcium from their whole prey for their own use but a UVB bulb still offers some health benefits as well as promotion of natural behaviors from the UVA being emitted.
In the wild, these snakes feed primarily on birds, lizards, pack rats, baby rabbits, deer mice, and kangaroo rats. In captivity however, most are fed mice and small rats in some cases. It is highly recommended to feed only pre-killed prey as live prey can severely injure or kill a snake. Chicago Exotics recommends feeding properly thawed frozen rodents.
These snakes are aggressive feeders despite their slow moving nature. Hatchlings are typically fed pinkies to hopper size mice and adults are fed adult mice or small rats. Smaller meals fed on a more frequent basis is recommended. Depending on the size of the meal, it is recommended to feed hatchlings every 5-7 days and adults every 10-14 days.
Sources and Recommended Reading
Boas: Rosy and Ground, Jerry Walls
Rosy Boas: Patterns in Time, Bob Montoya, Gerold Merker, Randy Limburg
The Art of Keeping Snakes, Philippe De Vosjoli
Boas, Doug Wagner
The New Encyclopedia of Snakes, Christopher Mattison
Living Snakes of the World, John M. Merirtens
Rosy, Rubber, and Sand Boas, R.D. Bartlett
An educational handout concerning reptiles and Salmonella is available through the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians. Please ask your veterinarian for a copy.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.