Rosy Boa Care (Lichanura trivergata)
By Stephen Richardson
Rosy boas are one of two species of boa indigenous to North America; they can be found in the rocky hills of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts and the chaparral located at base of many Southern California mountain ranges. There are many unique localities and/or subspecies that can be found in California, Arizona, and Mexico. Rosy boas are scientifically named lichanura-tail like a finger, trivergata-three stripes. There is some disagreement on the number of subspecies among hobbyists and researchers; some of the classifications are debated.
California has two subspecies of rosy boa, lichanura trivergata roseofusca (coastal rosy boa) and lichanura trivergata gracia (desert rosy boa). Unique localities of rosy boas are found in parts of Arizona and Mexico, the Mexican species of rosy boa familiar in the herp hobby is lichanura trivergata trivirgata which is commonly called the Mexican rosy boa. In my experience field herping I have found rosy boas at all times during the day except for during the hottest mid-day temperatures. I have removed many coastal rosy boas from the road as late as noon during early spring; they seen to change their behavior as the temperature changes from spring to summer where they essentially become nocturnal. Most of the desert species I have found in the spring are found as the sun is setting; during the summer they are found late at night. For more information on California rosy boas go to http://www.californiaherps.com/index.html.
Caging and Substrate
I keep all of my rosy boas in a rack system that includes under-belly heat. I have a proportional controller that keeps the temperatures just right for my boas. On a small scale I recommend that rosy boas be kept in cages made for snakes that have locking doors or lids. Snakes are escape artists so be sure to keep your rosy in a good cage that is escape proof. I use aspen bedding for my rosy boas; you can find aspen shavings at any reptile shop, pet supper store, or even at Target. I have shifted all of my colubrids and rosy boas to aspen chips that are a much finer product than the shavings found in the previously mentioned locations. I do not recommend any other type of bedding for rosy boas; aspen is the best substrate for most snakes that do not require high humidity. Do not use cedar chips, cedar is harmful to reptiles. Rosy boas in captivity need under the belly heat; use a heat pad made for reptiles and adhere it under and to one side of the enclosure. It is important that rosy boas have the ability to thermal regulate; they need a cool and a warm side in their enclosure.
Always provide a hiding place on both the cool and warm sides of the cage and include a small water dish on the cool side. It is important that the water dish be cleaned and disinfected often. I give my rosy boas water for a 24 hour period once a week. Do not leave a water dish in your rosy's cage long term; it can be harmful to them. Additionally, spot clean the cage often to remove any rosy boa poo. Some rosy boas can become very nippy if they are not held on a regular basis. I recommend that your rosy be held at least twice a week to keep them accustomed to being held. You may have to work on taming a nippy boa. I did have a couple of rosy boas that would not tolerate being held and they would bite my hands or fingers. I worked with them over time and I was able to calm them down. They are now fun to hold.
I feed my rosy boas roughly once a week during the spring, summer, and fall. A varied feeding schedule is not a bad idea for captive snakes. All of my adult boas eat frozen-thawed mice or hopper rats. I recommend using frozen thawed food for all captive snakes whenever possible. For all my newborn rosy boas I provide frozen-thawed or live pinkies for their first meal. I have found that only some of my baby rosy boas will accept frozen-thawed pinkies for their first meal, the others take a little time to convert to frozen thawed food. Be sure to heat up a frozen mouse before feeding it your rosy boa. A cup of hot water will thaw and heat up a pinky nicely. As the size of the food increases for your snake you will have to increase the size of the container of hot water. Be careful not to feed your rosy boa food that is too large. The rule I go by is fairly simple. If the food item looks like the right size, then decrease the size of that food item a bit; this a bit subjective and requires some patients when choosing food for your rosy boa. Generally, the mouse should have a little less girth than that of your rosy boa. Some rosy boas have sensitive digestive systems; if a rosy boa does not have proper heat or is given food that is too large, then they will regurgitate their food.
Some Health Issues
Regurgitation should be looked at as a serious problem, especially if it happens more than once and consecutively. All rosy boa owners should have on hand a probiotic to be given their boa occasionally. I use a product called NutriBac which is a probiotic designed to promote healthy digestion. I dip the rear end of the mouse or pinky in the NutriBac and feed the rosy as usual. If a rosy boa regurgitates, then I usually wait a couple of days and then give them a smaller than usual feeder that is dipped in NutriBac. If your rosy repeatedly regurgitates, then you may need to see a vet experienced with snakes
If you notice that there are tiny black bugs crawling on your boa, then your snake has mites. You may notice your boas soaking in the water dish. Although this is a possible sign of mites, soaking is a good for your snake; it will drown the mites. You should treat your snake with mite spray and follow the instructions on the product you purchased to kill the mites. You should also soak the snake in comfortable warm water after you have treated it. This will clean any residue mite spray off your boa. You will need to get rid of all substrate and carefully clean all hides and cage decor. I would use white paper towels for a cage liner during the treatment process; this will make it easy to see the mites. You will have to repeat the treating process multiple times to cover the life cycle of the mites. Mites should be looked at as a serious health threat to your snake. I have heard of cases where snakes in captivity have died from a mite infestation.
Although I have had little problems with my rosy boas shedding, you should soak your snake in warm water if it has retained shed. After soaking you should be able to carefully remove retained shed gently by rubbing your finger on the snake. The retained shed should come off the snake. Look carefully at the eyes of your boa, be sure to carefully remove retained shed from the eyes. If your snake repeatedly has trouble shedding you may need to seek the advice of an experienced reptile vet or breeder. Do not keep your rosy boa in wet or humid conditions long term. Rosy boas are from dry desert climates. Keeping your rosy boa’s cage excessively wet or humid can make your snake sick. Be proactive and keep your snake healthy by keeping your snake’s cage dry and clean, disinfect the water dish, and pay close attention to the appearance and behavior of your rosy boa.
Remember that you are responsible for the health and well being of your boa; do not neglect your responsibility. If you follow the guidelines included in this care sheet, then your rosy boa will live a very long healthy life; there are some captive rosy boas that are in excess of thirty years old.