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  • [Behavior] Socializing a new Boa

    Hello! I recently took in a Colombian Red tail that was surrendered to my local Herp Society. I've had "her" (have not had it properly sexed yet but from what I can tell I'm guessing it's a female) for about week now and she still seems terrified. If I try to handle her she curls right up into defensive mode and prefers to never leave her hide. After 5 days of letting her settle in on her own I tried feeding her and she ate like a champ but two days later she is still scared and only staying under her hide. I am very inexperienced with working with fearful reptiles, I've only ever handled well socialized animals so I'm not sure how to help her. I was thinking about handling her for a while before every feeding to associate handling with a nice treat afterwards but that would take so long that way. I am worried she won't properly thermoregulate herself as she just stays under her hide wherever it is in the tank. Are there any tips for speeding up this process without stressing her out too much? I just want her to be happy and healthy!

  • #2
    Re: Socializing a new Boa

    You should always allow her several days rest after she eats, so that she digests her food & doesn't regurgitate it. Yes, she IS terrified now....she is in a new environment and instinctively, she assumes that
    any creature that picks her up is going to eat her (as they do in the wild), so just be patient. You don't want to associate feeding and handling, trust me...the food response of most boas is not something you
    want to "hold" & cuddle.

    But when she is past digesting, gently pick her up. Try to be as un-threatening as you can: if she hisses & seems like she wants to bite, just remember (no matter how big she is!) that she is AFRAID of you.
    We are "big ugly predators" as far as they know...so reducing what she sees often helps...you do this by putting a towel over the snake & picking them up inside/underneath it...and just sit and cuddle them
    in their 'blankie' for a while...at least a half hour, an hour if you can...so she learns to know you by scent & touch...and that you are warm & safe to cuddle with. Remember that you may need to do this a number
    of times periodically before she really learns...but she WILL learn. Gradually when she gets used to this process you let her see out from under the towel...and when that goes well (without obvious fear or bites) you
    gradually proceed to handling (cuddling!) with no towel. Keep her away from your face at this time...that's "advanced work", to make sure she isn't afraid of your face. I gradually get my snakes used facial close-ups-
    so they don't suddenly spook & bite...and since I have always done snake programs (including "meet & greets" with people who may be afraid of snakes) that's really important for safety & good "public relations".

    You didn't mention how big or how old this boa is....obviously this is easier when they are smaller, but it works the same at any age. Be very patient...and remember that most snakes do NOT recognize us by vision!
    They know us by our scent & how we touch them (< NOT like a predator!) & it takes time to over-come the instincts they were born (or hatched) with to survive.

    Glad to welcome you to the site AND to the family of snake-keepers everywhere...you have the right attitude.

    Also: to help her settle in, you might try covering much of her view from inside her cage by putting paper or a towel (whatever works best & safely) over her cage, so she can explore her cage without seeing you.
    I prefer to offer at least 2 'hides' also...one where it's cooler & one on the warm side of the cage, since snakes will USUALLY choose security over the correct temperature because of their innate shyness.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Socializing a new Boa

      I agree with what Noelle said. I will add that right now, if your temps and humidity are correct, you had best not "bother" her too much with the handling, but just leave her alone to get used to her new home. You could put one of your just worn T-shirts in her tank in a corner or in her hide to help her get used to how you smell? Might help.

      It's good that she is eating. How big is she and what are you feeding her?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Socializing a new Boa

        Thanks Noelle for all the advice! I will try the towel over her head idea for sure. I just wasn't sure how much I should try handling her while she is still so stressed. She seems to be coming out of her hide a lot more in the last day or two so I'll give that a try soon! I really like the t-shirt idea too, thanks Tammy!

        I have the cool end of the tank at 72ish and the hot spot at around 85 with a "night light" overhead and a heat pad underneath. Humidity is at about 80%. I am planning on keeping the humidity a little high for a while as she has a bad head shed from wherever she was before my herp society took her in. I've put in a towel that she can rub against and am thinking of adding a branch but don't want to add too many new scary things to her environment so far.

        As far as making her feel secure, her tank is in my reptile room and I've been trying not to go in there too often as to give her that time to relax.

        She is about 5 feet right now and I really don't know about the age, we were not given an age by the person who surrendered her, I would guess about 2 years?

        Feeding: We also didn't know when she last ate before the surrender, she was at our herp society for about a week with no food and another 5 days at my place until I fed her a small rat. I know she needed something bigger but all my local stores were out and I wanted to test how well or not she might eat with something small. She at right away and so I got a large-ish medium rat and fed her again today. I will not be feeding her again for at least 10 days now though.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Socializing a new Boa

          I think you'll find, as I have over the years (taking in many unwanted snakes) that time & "TLC" (tender loving care) will overcome most issues & I wish you every success with her. At 5' long, she is more likely to

          be more like 5 years old at least...she's old enough to have some opinions about people & their handling techniques. To be clear, if you need to use the towel-technique, it's not only over her head but used to engulf

          the whole snake...but of course, the head IS the end that bites in fear. It's important, IF you do that, to only do it when you aren't rushed or distracted & can focus only on sitting with her. As they start to relax,

          it can startle them & work against you if you suddenly "change gears". It's a good time to watch a movie or something, lol... Many years ago I was given a very scared yearling boa that changed hands several times-

          no one could handle her without bites & they all gave up on her- but I didn't. I used a towel for about 2 months & never let her bite me, and after that she no longer wanted to bite. Ever. Totally sweet, just very shy.

          Many people seem to think that you can never trust a snake (not to bite etc) but they forget that THEY must BE "trust worthy" for the snake to follow suit. In all my years of sharing my snakes in programs, I've

          never had one bite anyone....nor at the vet, ever. (and not because I have a vise-grip on their necks, LOL)

          I'm so happy you're giving this snake a new chance in life.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Socializing a new Boa

            At five feet this boa is probably big enough to be eating large rats. I would offer one every 3-4 weeks and not handle at all for 4-5 days after feeding, unless she's grossly overweight. Some keepers don't know any better and they overfeed, so if she's fat then you can space her meals out a bit more. Usually if mine are under their warm side hide after being fed then they are still digesting, so I don't fool with them much until they've started to seek out cooler parts of the enclosure.

            I wouldn't have put her tank in or even anywhere near the same room as my other snakes due to QT issues, she would have been isolated for at least 90 days as far away as possible. She came to the rescue from a completely unknown source and was there for a week. Rescues are wonderful and I've helped with them, but they are asked to take in anything and everything from sources that can be sketchy, so even if she didn't have anything when she arrived she may have picked something up.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Socializing a new Boa

              Originally posted by bcr_229 View Post
              At five feet this boa is probably big enough to be eating large rats. I would offer one every 3-4 weeks and not handle at all for 4-5 days after feeding, unless she's grossly overweight. Some keepers don't know any better and they overfeed, so if she's fat then you can space her meals out a bit more. Usually if mine are under their warm side hide after being fed then they are still digesting, so I don't fool with them much until they've started to seek out cooler parts of the enclosure.

              I wouldn't have put her tank in or even anywhere near the same room as my other snakes due to QT issues, she would have been isolated for at least 90 days as far away as possible. She came to the rescue from a completely unknown source and was there for a week. Rescues are wonderful and I've helped with them, but they are asked to take in anything and everything from sources that can be sketchy, so even if she didn't have anything when she arrived she may have picked something up.
              While I agree with you that this boa is big enough to eat larger food, with a rescued snake of uncertain background it can be a big mistake to suddenly feed a large meal...& can even result in their sudden death
              if they happen to be loaded with internal parasites or have other unknown issues. I personally wouldn't feed a 5' boa more than a medium rat anyway...most boas ARE over-fed (& under-exercised) but it never
              hurts to feed a new snake very conservatively until you see how that first meal is handled (digestively speaking), especially if they are nervous. New snakes are more at risk to regurge also, just from stress.

              I quite agree she should be quarantined (if the OP has other snakes?) and I thank you for bringing that up too.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Socializing a new Boa

                Originally posted by Noelle7206 View Post
                While I agree with you that this boa is big enough to eat larger food, with a rescued snake of uncertain background it can be a big mistake to suddenly feed a large meal...& can even result in their sudden death
                if they happen to be loaded with internal parasites or have other unknown issues. I personally wouldn't feed a 5' boa more than a medium rat anyway...most boas ARE over-fed (& under-exercised) but it never
                hurts to feed a new snake very conservatively until you see how that first meal is handled (digestively speaking), especially if they are nervous. New snakes are more at risk to regurge also, just from stress.

                I quite agree she should be quarantined (if the OP has other snakes?) and I thank you for bringing that up too.
                Not going to disagree here! I was just looking over the OP's timeline, small rat eaten on/about 9/23, a "largish medium" on 9/26... IMO feeding this snake again in 10 days as the OP stated she planned to do is way too soon, I'd offer again after three weeks.

                On the QT: OP also said she has a "reptile room" so there may be more than just snakes in there, and some diseases affect both snakes and lizards.

                Also I run my boas temps a bit warmer, ambient in the mid to upper 70's with 88-90*F belly heat.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Socializing a new Boa

                  I was concerned with possible regurgitation which is why I started with the smaller meals. I can't say I know the proper timeline for feeding, so I suppose I will wait another two or three weeks before her next feeding but I will feed her a largish-medium rat or a small-large rat. Also, just to clarify, she was fed a small rat 9/21 and the medium 9/26. I know those were very close together but I was concerned she might be too hungry to calm down in her new environment and I have no idea when she last ate before that.

                  As far a Quarantine, I wash my hands between handling any of my animals and I have no other snakes, this is my first and I want to do my best! Bearded dragon and red footed tortoises are my other reptiles, I'm not sure if there are any zoonotic diseases that could be spread between those 3 species. I was concerned about my tortoises as they are from the same general geographical area but they are kept in opposite areas of the room. I am fairly certain that there are no air-born diseases or parasites that could be spread between my new boa and my tortoises?

                  Comment

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