Bahamian Boa Constrictor

Bahamian Boa Constrictor

COMMON AND SCIENTIFIC NAMES
There are three species and eight subspecies:

  • New Providence boa (Epicrates striatus strigilatus) – New Providence, Eleuthera, Long Island & Exumas
  • Andros boa (Epicrates striatus fowleri) – Andros, Berry Islands
  • Bimini boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri) – Bimini Island
  • Ragged island boa (Epicrates striatus mccraniei) – Ragged Island
  • Cat Island boa (Epicrates striatus ailurus) – Cat Island
  • Abaco boa (Epicrates exsul) – Abaco and Grand Bahama
  • Acklin’s boa (Epicrates chrysogaster schwartzi) – Acklin’s Boa and Crooked Island
  • Great Inagua boa (Epicrates chrysogaster relicquus) – Great Inagua

*NOTE Scientific name changes: Epicrates = Chilobothrus. Also recent genetic work suggests that some of these sub-species are in fact their own species. Particularly for E. striatus strigilatus which may soon become Chilobothrus strigilatus.

DESCRIPTION
Like all reptiles they are cold-blooded animals with a skin that feels smooth and wax like. The Epicrates genus are known as the “rainbow boas” referring to iridescent shine given by the snake’s skin in the sun light, or “slender boas” referring to the more slender appearance of the genus compared to other snakes of the boa family. Bahamian boas vary in coloration and pattern depending upon the species but they are all generally a gray-brown color with striking regular patterns in dark gray or constrictor can reach lengths up to 8 feet.

DIET
Young boas live in trees and shrubs and feed mostly on anole lizards. Adult boas feed on frogs, birds and rats: If allowed to live a full life, a Bahamian boa can consume thousands of rats. Like all boas, the Bahamian boa is non-venomous and uses the constriction method to subdue its prey. The boa uses its tiny backward pointing teeth to grab hold of its prey and then wraps its powerful body around the chest of the animal. The snake continues to tighten around its prey taking advantage of every exhaled breath, preventing the animal from breathing inwards and thus suffocating the prey. Once dead, the boa swallows the prey whole.

REPRODUCTION
Copulation (mating) occurs between February and May and birth occurs between August and November. Like most boas, the Bahamian boa is ovoviviparous meaning the young hatch from their eggs while still inside of the mother and appear to be born live. Litter size (the number of young born at the same time) can range from 1 to 70!

HABITAT
Bahamian boas are found on all the major islands except Grand Bahama and San Salvador. They are arboreal meaning they live in trees or forested areas but can also be found under leaf litter and rock crevices.

STATUS
Not enough research has been conducted on the Bahamian boa constrictors to give an accurate report on their status. All species of Bahamian boas are “Not Evaluated” by the IUCN’s redlist of threatened species. However, the Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) lists the Bahamian boa constrictor in Appendix II meaning it is a species that is not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

Even though the Bahamian boas are quite common on their respective islands, appropriate research could show that some of the Bahamian boas are deserving of an appropriate conservation status.

THREATS
The major threat to Bahamian boa constrictors is man. Many people needlessly kill these snakes purely out of fear. As human development continues to encroach on the snake’s habitat, these snakes end up more into homes were they are immediately killed. Other threats include dogs and cats which prey upon them as well as the collection of snakes for the illegal pet trade.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Ragged Island boa constrictor Epicrates striatus mccraniei was not described until 1957.
  • The Crooked Island and Acklins Island fowl snake Epicrates chrysogaster schwartzi has never been collected alive.
  • The scientific name for Epicrates is very likely to change to Chilabothrus.

FURTHER READING
What To Do When You’ve Found A Snake
– Article published by the Bahamas National Trust to help people who encounter a snake in the Bahamas.

Phyogenetics of the Boid snake genus Epicrates and Caribeean vicariance theory
– Tolson. 1987. Occasional papers of the Museum of Zoology. University of Michigan.

Molecular phylogeny and historical biogeography of West Indian boid snakes (Chilabothrus)
– Reynolds et al. 2013. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.