Boa constrictors are carnivores whose main diet consists of terrestrial vertebrates.
A boa constrictor’s specific diet can differ depending on where it lives in the wild or if it is being raised in captivity.
A boa constrictor living in the wild will eat any animal they can fit in their jaws. Because boas are a non-venomous snake, they strike at their prey and wrap their bodies around it. The strong constriction cuts off blood flow in the prey, usually a small mammal, to the point of death.
After the mammal dies, the snake then swallows it whole. The digestion process can take a boa constrictor up to 4 days.
Let’s go over the types of animals boas eat both in the wild and in captivity, how much and how often they eat, and how to feed a boa in captivity.
What Is A Boa Constrictor’s Diet In The Wild?
Boa constrictors eat mostly small mammals in the wild; however, they have been known to eat ocelots.
The animal’s boas prey on can change as they grow, because, as noted above, they will eat anything they can fit in their mouths.
A boa’s mouth does not have hinged jawbones.
Its muscles and tendons can stretch to lengths you’d swear were not possible to accommodate a good meal.
Young Boas In The Wild
Young boas in the wild will typically eat:
- Small birds
- Small lizards
Adult Boas In The Wild
Adult boas in the wild will typically eat:
- Small to Medium-Sized Mammals
- Larger Lizards
How Do Wild Boas Catch Their Prey?
A boa constrictor in its natural habitat is an ambush predator, meaning they lie in wait for just the right moment to strike at their prey.
Boas flick their tongues in the air to catch the scent of any nearby prey.
Boas are not a venomous snake.
A boa uses its teeth to hook onto their meal, and then uses its long body to coil around the animal and squeeze it.
This constriction disrupts the blood flow in the prey, depriving it of the oxygen it needs to survive, and eventually, the animal dies of suffocation.
How Often Do Boa’s Eat In The Wild?
In the wild, boas have to attempt to catch their prey.
They have to be in the right place at the right time and then be successful at catching it and holding onto it long enough to kill it.
This does not happen every day.
A wild boa will attempt to feed on things it comes upon, but it may take time to find those perfect conditions and be successful at getting a meal.
What Is A Boa Constrictor’s Diet In Captivity?
Captive boas diets look a little different than a boa living in the wild.
What Animals Do Boas In Captivity Eat?
Boas held in captivity should be fed small mammals and rodents such as mice, rats, rabbits, or even small chickens.
They should be fed animals who are already deceased.
You should never feed a boa constrictor an animal wider than it’s own body.
How Do You Feed A Captive Boa Constrictor?
Pet boas have diets typically made up of frozen rodents purchased from a pet store.
They come in various sizes and types (mice, rats, rabbits, large, small, etc.).
These rodents are thawed and then heated to slightly above room temperature, and then fed to the snake using long tongs (never hands).
Though the food is already dead, the boa will still strike and constrict around it before swallowing it whole.
How Often Should You Feed A Captive Boa?
The schedule for feeding a captive boa is designed with this idea; boas in the wild don’t always catch everything they attempt to eat.
Overfeeding is an all too common complaint among veterinarians when it comes to analyzing a pet boa’s overall health.
Feeding a boa too often can result in excessive weight gain.
This taxes the liver and can result in health issues and shortened life spans.
How much and how frequently a boa should eat depends on their size and age.
Follow this guideline:
- Baby Boas (neonates) will experience their first shed around two weeks after birth. Once they experience their first shed, they should be fed once every 5 to 7 days.
- Young Boas (juveniles) should be fed every 10 to 14 days.
- Adult Boas (reached sexual maturity, three to four years of age) should be fed less often due to their growth rate slowing exponentially, eating once every 3 to 4 weeks.
How Does A Boa Digest Its Food?
Once the boa is certain its prey has died, it uses its teeth and the muscles in the mouth and jaw to swallow the prey whole.
If you have never seen a boa eat a meal, it is a sight to be seen.
Once the prey reaches a certain point, muscles in the digestive tract take over and pull the meal further into the snake’s body.
A captive boa constrictor should not be handled for at least 24 hours after a meal.
It is common for them to appear sluggish during the digestion process, which can take up to 4 days.
Having the proper temperature and a basking spot for your pet boa is necessary to aid in its digestion.
Problems With Digestion
A captive boa can develop a regurgitation problem after eating.
This is usually due to overfeeding or the snake being moved by a handler too soon after consuming a meal.
Once a snake regurgitates, it can become an ongoing issue.
To sum up, what a boa constrictor eats depends on its habitat, whether it is living in nature or captivity.
How large of an animal a boa constrictor can eat depends on its age and size.
A wild boa constrictor’s diet typically consists of mice, rats, bats, birds, lizards, and small mammals.
In captivity, a pet boa is usually fed frozen rodents who are thawed and warmed, but their diet also may include rabbits and even little chickens.
We hope this article has answered any basic questions you have about boa constrictors and their eating habits.