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Wildlife

The Endangered Puerto Rico Boa

The Puerto Rican Boa (Epicrates inornstus) is another of Puerto Rico’s wildlife species that finds its existence threatened and it is named on the IUCN endangered species list. History shows that the Puerto Rican Boa was hunted for snake oil and the exportation thereof. Sadly, the illegal hunting of this beautiful Puerto Rican snake is still ongoing. By the 1900’s, hunting and deforestation had influenced their existence so greatly that no living specimen could be found until recently. They have narrowly escaped extinction.

The coloration of the Puerto Rican Boa can vary between pale shades of browns and grays to darker brown, with dark dorsal spots. They can grow to lengths of between six and seven feet, although larger snakes have been reported. Puerto Rican Boas are not venomous. As with other boa species, Puerto Rican Boas are constrictors, grabbing hold of its prey with its jaws and coiling the rest of its body around the captured victim. This in turn suffocates the prey before it is eaten head first. Their prey generally consists of rats, mice and small birds and it has also been discovered that these slithering creatures have a few hunting techniques that are quite unique. For example, these snakes will often hang down in front of a cave to catch exiting bats in flight.

Sightings of the Puerto Rican Boa are very rare as they find a secluded area on the ground to sleep during the day and only take to the trees at night when hunting. The female boa gives birth to approximately twenty-five live boas. Keeping the young in captivity, to ensure their growth and increase population numbers, cannot be risked at present. Researchers have never had the opportunity to study the young and their feeding habits in the wild, therefore caring for them correctly in captivity would be impossible.

This spectacular Puerto Rican snake is unique to the island and recorded sightings are still very rare. Population numbers can therefore only be estimated and this makes the threat to their survival so much greater. Every effort is being made by Puerto Rican authorities to put an end to the hunting of the few remaining Puerto Rican boas and to protect them against extinction. Tourists and foreigners are able to make a contribution to this effort simply by refusing to purchase any items or souvenirs that originate from killing a boa. By eliminating the demand for goods it will hopefully decrease the poaching of this beautiful snake and ensure the survival of this species.