Boa constrictors are large, non-venomous, carnivorous snakes that can adapt to a variety of habitats. They have developed diverse markings for camouflage in different surroundings and can modify their behaviour to suit various environments. Despite this adaptability, most boa constrictors are protected species and some are in danger of extinction.
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Boa constrictors are so named because they crush or "constrict" their prey, killing it by suffocation. Their preferred diet is birds and small mammals, which they consume head first for easier swallowing. Older boa constrictors may seek prey as large as monkeys or wild pigs. Boa constrictors only feed at night. They usually hunt along the ground, but have been known to venture into trees in search of food. Boa constrictors are strong swimmers and will also lurk around rivers waiting for thirsty prey. Since their activity level is low, boa constrictors only need to feed about once a week.
Boa constrictors are nocturnal. During daylight, they hide in tree trunks or animal burrows. Boa constrictors can use their tails to climb and grasp, making them well suited for an arboreal habitat. They generally live in rainforests, but can also survive in grasslands. Found throughout Central and South America, the boa constrictor's activity level depends on its location--it becomes inactive in colder climates and more lively in warmer temperatures.
Boa constrictors reach sexual maturity between ages 2 and 4. In the wild, mating coincides with the rainy season. Scientists believe that the male boa constrictor employs claw-like appendages near the genitals to interest the female in breeding. Although both male and female boa constrictors have such appendages (indicating a genetic relationship with limbed reptiles such as lizards), the male's are larger.
The gestation period for boa constrictors is between four and 10 months. Since they hatch the eggs within their bodies, female boa constrictors actually give birth to live snakes. Up to 60 young boa constrictors can be delivered at once. The baby boa constrictor usually does not eat for its first week, waiting until it sheds its first skin.
Because boa constrictors are known to kill livestock, they are often treated as pests and killed. According to Animal Port, boa constrictors are also hunted for their valuable skins, their meat and "simply out of fear." Athough an adult boa constrictor has no predators other than man, young boa constrictors are prey for forest animals such as hawks and wild pigs.
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