How To Handle A Boa Constrictor

Do you want to handle your boa constrictor, but you’re afraid of messing it up somehow?

Are you looking to protect yourself and your pet snake when it’s time to tame and handle them?

Boa constrictors are well-known for their docile nature, but snakes still don’t naturally want to be picked up by people, making it essential to know how to handle a boa constrictor.

When handling a boa, place one hand under their body close to the head and your other hand near the last two-thirds length of the snake. Boa constrictors want to feel secure, so they will wrap around your limbs for added support.

We share more details on how to handle and tame a boa constrictor.

how to handle a boa constrictor

How To Handle Boa Constrictors In 7 Easy Steps

This section will review the steps for handling or picking up the boa constrictor.

Knowing that you must first hand tame the boa before handling it too much is essential.

#0 Wash Hands

When handling any pet, the first step is to wash your hands.

All this is essential when handling reptiles.

Reptile skin is sensitive to oils and germs on our skin.

If we handle them unwashed, there’s a chance we may cause skin irritation or injury.

Use warm water and antibacterial soap to scrub your hands for 20 seconds, and then dry your hands before handling.

#1 Give Them A Gentle Touch With The Snake Hook

Your hands are just the right size for a boa constrictor to eat.

If you come at them with just your hands, they may get confused and think it’s time to eat.

Instead, use a snake hook (preferably wrapped with a paper towel for extra cushioning) to their head.

Move the hook from where they can see it and touch their heads.

If they don’t run away and stay calm, they’re OK to pick up.

#2 Move Your Hands And Hook In The Tank

The first step is to put your hands in the tank.

Keep your hands in front of the boa constrictor, so it’s not surprising. 

When you move your hands, the goal is to avoid moving in a jerking motion.

This may trigger the boa’s hunting instincts and cause it to bite at you.

One of the worst mistakes people make when handling their boa constrictors is to reach for them from above their heads.

This is where many predators attack.

When your boa senses something approaching from behind, its best defense is to run or attack.

Start on the opposite side of the tank or a reasonable distance from where the boa can see you.

With your hands and hook in the tank successfully, check again for signs of stress.

#3 Watch For Signs Of Stress

As you move towards the boa constrictor, watch for signs of stress.

If the boa rears up or opens its mouth, stop!

This is a sign it’s threatened and may bite.

If you notice the boa move away quickly, it’s a little stressed and may not want to be handled.

Here you may wish to gently stroke its body away from its head with the hook to see if the snake is too stressed to handle.

If the boa slithers away or rears up when you stroke it, back away and go again another day.

Signs of shedding include blue or milky eyes and a graying and loosening of their skin.

The boa won’t eat much or move a lot during a shed.

Owners describe the snake as cranky and irritable.

Unless you have to handle them during a shed for medical reasons, wait until they’ve completed the process before handling them.

This is another common newbie mistake.

Further reading: How long after a shed can you handle a boa constrictor?

#4 Move Hook Under Their Body

Move your hook under its body near the head and move it towards your body.

Essentially, you want the boa to think of you like a tree.

Stay calm and move the boa with the hook and your hands to your body.

It’ll wrap itself around you, not as an attack, but as a way of climbing.

Move jerky, as we mentioned above, or too threatening, and you may get bit.

If the boa is an infant or young one, you won’t have much trouble picking the boa up with the hook and your hand.

However, if the boa is full-grown, we recommend having someone help you pick the snake up.

#5 Support As Much As Possible

As the boa climbs on you, support it as much as possible, and don’t move quickly.

This will keep the boa relaxed and safe.

If you drop your arms or run around while the boa constrictor is wrapped around you, it’ll feel like the “tree” is falling.

In the wild, the boa would respond by tightening its coils to be more secure in the tree.

But in this case, you ARE the tree.

Keep yourself stable, supportive, and calm, and your boa constrictor will enjoy its time climbing on you.

#6 Watch Your Neck

While your boa is climbing on you, we can’t overemphasize the importance of ensuring the boa constrictor doesn’t wrap around your neck.

In reality, this is the only way a boa will pose any real risk to your health.

Their bites aren’t venomous, and their coil strength isn’t powerful enough to break bones or choke you.

However, they can cut off your blood supply if they coil around your neck.

They’d only do this if surprised or threatened.

Learn more about how strong a boa constrictor can squeeze.

Most owners and experts consider the boa safer than a cat or dog that bites or scratches when threatened.

The boa doesn’t even bite when threatened. It’s only when it feels it’s in severe danger.

But the neck-coiling danger is real.

Fortunately, this is easily avoided by gently pushing the snake’s body away and off your neck.

#7 Put The Boa Back

When you’re done handling the boa constrictor (after 15 minutes maximum), put it back in its enclosure by gently guiding the body below its head back to the ground.

Then, unwrap it gently from your body and place it in the enclosure.

Take care not to drop any part of the snake in the enclosure. Place it intentionally down.

Dropping scares the snake, potentially causing it to get angry and defensive.

More likely, a drop will injure the snake.

Despite how fierce boa constrictors seem, they tend to have spinal injuries when pulled too hard by the tail or dropped heavily.

#X Wash Hands Again

After handling any reptile, it’s essential to rewash your hands after.

Reptiles often carry salmonella on the outside of their bodies.

If you don’t wash your hands, you may ingest the disease, which causes severe stomach problems.

Use warm soap and antibacterial soap to scrub for 20 seconds again.

Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Congrats! You now know how to handle a boa constrictor.

What Is A Snake Hook?

A snake hook is a standard tool for handling dangerous snakes.

Many outdoors people and zoologists use them for all manner of snakes.

These aren’t bad things to have with pet snakes, but for smaller snakes such as the ball python, they aren’t needed.

With boa constrictors, you need a large snake hook.

This is mainly to help you handle them without feeling overwhelmed by their large and heavy bodies.

Remember, boa constrictors may grow up to 10 ft long and weigh up to 80 lbs or more!


If you shop for snake hooks on your own, get a strong, durable one at least 50″ inches in length.

Many smaller ones are out there, but they won’t handle the large boas well.

This one is durable and robust enough to handle the snake’s considerable weight.

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How Do You Hand Tame A Boa Constrictor Over Time?

You need to follow a process to get your boa constrictor used to you.

The snake will learn your scent, and if you handle it too soon, it’ll learn to fear you.

Following this hand-taming process takes time, but avoiding injury for yourself and your pet is best.

Below is a chart for the general hand-taming process; keep in mind the information from the previous section while doing this:

Note: Taming is best done daily, but if the snake has eaten within 24 hours or shows signs of shedding, skip this day.

DayTime HandledAction Practiced
Week 15 minutes dailyHook in the tank, stroking back, lifting, and moving
Week 25 minutes dailyHook touching head, stroking back, picking up
Week 37 minutes dailyHook touching head, stroking back, picking up
Week 49 minutes dailyHand touching head, full handling
Week 512 minutes dailyHand touching head, full handling
Week 6+15 minutes dailyHand touching head, full handing

Other Considerations On Hand Taming

Here are a few other general tips for hand taming:

  • Don’t let your hands smell like food at all!
  • Baby boa’s nip, but don’t let this deter you. They get used to handling in time.
  • Don’t handle it for 1-2 weeks after obtaining your pet.
  • Take a much slower and more cautious approach to hand-taming young and adult boas. It’s best to get them young.
  • Be patient but consistent.

Why A Boa Constrictor Coils Up When I Try To Handle It?

There may be a few reasons for your boa constrictor to coil up when handling it.

These are all natural reactions to their situation, but it’s difficult to guess the real reasons without seeing when and where the coiling happens.

If they coil as you pick them up:

This is normal.

They see you like a tree or something to climb on.

Boa constrictors need to coil to climb securely.

If they coil in a ball when you touch them:

This is more of a stress sign.

Be careful when you see this.

When threatened, this isn’t one of the more common behaviors, but they may feel they have no place to run, so they coil up to protect their head.

This is similar to another constrictor, the ball python.

Related: Difference between ball pythons and boa constrictors

However, this lack of options may also force them into an attack mode to defend themselves.

My boa constrictor is squeezing:

Be careful with the difference between coiling and squeezing for attack or defense.

Normal movement requires coiling and may feel strong, but there usually isn’t intense pressure.

When you feel the squeezing tightly, this is a sign the boa constrictor is startled or doesn’t feel secure in how you’re handling it.


If you wanted to help your boa constrictor get used to you, you now know how to handle a boa constrictor.

Take it slow and be patient.

Wash your hands before and after.

Use a snake hook and watch for signs of stress.

Let them feel secure in climbing your body, but keep them from going around your neck.

All in all, these large constrictors may seem dangerous, but if you use common sense, they may be safer than other standard pets.

The most important advice we offer is to pay attention to the snake’s signals.

Slithering away, hissing, rearing back, and mouth open are signs of danger.

This isn’t the boa wanting to attack you.

It wants to defend itself.

With the right attitude, these slithery friends are almost cuddly!

Related: What to do if a boa constrictor attacks you

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