Creepy Critter #1: Red-tailed Boa Constrictor
And the winner of creepiest critter is……the most storied of them all: the snake! Feel squeamish? You’re so not alone. From their cold, scaly skin, to their forked tongues and tendency to eat rodents in one gulp, it’s no wonder these reptiles have secured legendary creep out status.
Boa Constrictors are scary in part due to their large size and the way in which they sometimes kill prey – by coiling around it and squeezing so tight as to suffocate it. However, more often, they will strike their prey first, and then coil around it, causing it to die by cardiac arrest. Their jaws are lined with small, hooked teeth perfect for grabbing and holding prey while they squeeze around it. Very large, strong boas can cause spinal fracture due to the huge of amounts of pressure they can apply to prey. Boas will eat almost anything they can catch, be it birds, rabbits, monkeys – even wild pigs, their jaws stretch extremely wide, enabling them to swallow large prey whole.
Being native to the warm, tropical climes of North, Central, and South America, boas like to dwell in humid places and partially enclosed spaces like hollow logs; news stories depicting an elderly couple in Florida who discovered a slithery surprise in their garage one day are not at all uncommon.
Boas are known for their distinctive markings. Depending on what type of habitat they’re trying to blend in with, their bodies can be green, red, tan, or yellow, and display geometric-type patterns of ovals, diamonds, and circles. Unfortunately, this beauty costs them. Boas are often harvested for their unique skins and are most commonly killed for snake skin products such as shoes, bags, and other “fashionable” clothing items. Boa meat is also popular and is often seen for sale at markets near their geographic ranges. Black market exotic pet rings also sadly prize boas.
Julius Squeezer, a 30-lb, 8.5 feet-long Red-tailed Boa Constrictor is the big resident boa at the Texas State Aquarium, come visit him in our Amazon exhibit!