Species Profile and Facts: The Enigmatic Rubber Boa

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Not many people are familiar with the rubber boa, and that’s probably because it’s rare to come across them. There are only two species of rubber boa in the world, one in Africa and the other in Central America.

Also known as Charina bottae, the rubber boa got its name from how squishy its body feels when you touch it—it’s sometimes called the cushion snake or the worm snake by herpetologists who have spent time handling them. Read on to learn more about this fascinating snake species!


The rubber boa is a species of snake that is native to Central America. It is known for being one of only two snakes in all of North America that has a visible nose. This creature, also known as Charina bottae, belongs to an ancient species of snakes known as boas.

Typically growing around 60-90 cm (23-35 inches) in length, rubber boas are considered small snakes by most standards. They have very stout bodies with relatively short tails that stretch out about 10% longer than their body size.

Despite their small stature, rubber boas are highly aggressive predators that prefer hunting at night when they’re most active. Here are some more facts about these fascinating animals

Unlike most reptiles, boas lack sturdy legs or scales. Instead, they possess large eyes and specialized teeth that allow them to chase down prey—primarily small mammals like mice—with relative ease.

Their coloration can vary based on what part of the world they live in; however, those found near Belize tend to be bright yellow or red with black stripes running down their sides. Those living near South America tend to look more similar to other types of snakes.



Found primarily in tropical South America, rubber boas have adapted to a wide range of habitat types. They thrive from sea level up to 6,800 feet but are most common in areas with a year-round warm climate (average temperature between 70°F-90°F).

In their natural habitat, rubber boas primarily inhabit tropical forests, though they can also be found in grasslands, deserts and even coastal areas. Rubber boas do not burrow or dig; instead they spend their time hiding under rocks or in rodent burrows.

These snakes are nonvenomous constrictors that use their sturdy body as a powerful coil to suffocate prey while they remain completely still until death occurs. Prey items include small mammals, birds and lizards.

Though they feed on mammals more often than reptiles, rubber boas will occasionally eat other snake species as well. Unlike many other snakes, which rely on sight when hunting for food, rubber boas employ an acute sense of smell to locate prey.

Despite their name, these reptiles are actually quite delicate and prefer cooler temperatures than what is typical for snakes.

Rubber Boa Snake


The rubber boa is among one of a few snake species to display parental care for its young. After a typical 60-90 day gestation period, females will give birth to 3-13 live young between 40-80 cm in length. This species is known to be somewhat aggressive toward other boas.

Scientists have identified two distinct subspecies – rubber boas found on Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali; and flying snakes found on Celebes (Sulawesi) Island. (5) It is said that some populations are not aggressive towards humans or their pets even if attacked by dogs or cats because they do not see them as threats since their natural predators consist mainly of raptors such as hawks.

However, they will strike at anything that comes too close to their burrows, which include certain types of rats and mice. (2) The rubber boa’s diet consists mostly of rodents including rats and mice but also lizards, frogs, birds, bats and insects depending on where it lives. When hunting for food it has been observed to use both sight and smell when finding prey.


Though small, rubber boas are cold-blooded snakes. Because they live in high altitudes, they must eat a lot of food to generate enough body heat. They eat both warm-blooded prey like birds and rodents, as well as smaller reptiles.

Most of their diet is made up of bird eggs and baby birds. They kill their prey by coiling around it with their bodies, then suffocating it with constriction. These snakes will also consume reptiles such as skinks, lizards, young rattlesnakes, turtles, chameleons and other snakes (such as king snakes).

Large adult rubber boas have even been known to attack weasels and mongooses! Section 5 – Reproduction: Breeding season for rubber boas takes place during springtime. Mating occurs shortly after emerging from hibernation and can last until mid-summer.

Females give birth to litters of 4–12 babies between August and October, depending on location. She gives birth underground or inside burrows abandoned by mammals or other animals, which helps protect her offspring from predators while they’re still very vulnerable.


The rubber boa can grow to a length of 2.1 m (7 ft), with an average length of 0.9 m (3 ft). Weight varies from .5 kg (.2 lbs) to 1.8 kg (4 lbs). This snake is rather slender, yet heavy bodied.

It has a small head in comparison to its body size, which is why it is often mistaken for being non-venomous by inexperienced herpetologists or laymen. Its neck is also long, making it look like it’s trying to swallow its own tail when coiled up.

These snakes are light brown on top with darker brown blotches down their backs and sides; they have a cream colored underbelly that matches their white chin scales. Their eyes are yellow or orange, depending on what subspecies you’re looking at; some subspecies even have red irises!

Conservation Status

Like most reptiles, rubber boas are cold-blooded. They rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. For example, if a human touches them, they will quickly try to get away from that source of heat.

In captivity they require an artificial heating device to provide a basking area of approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit in order for them to properly digest their food.

When wild rubber boas are exposed to temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they stop eating and go into brumation (similar to hibernation). During brumation, their metabolic rate slows down dramatically.

Wild rubber boas can survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods of time. Most snakes prefer warmer temperatures, but it is not uncommon for some species to be found at high elevations or latitudes where it gets very cold during certain times of year.

Range map and information on rubber boas in captivity

.While they are a popular pet in certain areas, they aren’t exactly commonplace. If you live in an area where they are common, though, then it might be pretty easy to find a seller of these animals. Otherwise, keep your eyes open for reptile expos and other animal events; many boas end up being traded at those types of events.

(We suggest you call ahead just to make sure there will be boas at that particular event.) Remember that snakes can carry Salmonella bacteria so you should wash your hands thoroughly after handling any snake or reptile!

Finally, we also recommend visiting your local veterinarian for information on how to properly care for these animals. As with all pets, it is essential that you do your research before buying one—but once you have one, we hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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