I just got my first boa, I’ve only had BP and colubrids so far. She was shipped to me. After receiving, I let her chill out for a week and then fed her. She ate no problem. I waited 48 hours for her to digest and I’ve started to handle her.
First session she was very defensive, striking constantly and hissing loudly the entire 15 minutes. She didn’t let up even for a second. I made sure not to “reward” her by putting her away until she calmed down but she never really calmed down. After about 15 minutes she at least closed her mouth so I took that as an opportunity to put her away even though she was till incredibly tense.
Second session I decided to start even slower. I let her stay in her enclosure and just only handed her with a hook. I alternated between tapping her head lightly, stroking her with the hook and holding/moving her around with the hook but again she hissed and struck at the hook like crazy the entire time. She even struck at the enclosure walls. About 10 minutes in she switched to fleeing so I was hopeful after that she would finally start to calm down. But after a 5 minute bout of that, right back to striking and hissing like mad.
I’ve never experienced a snake that didn’t calm down after a few minutes. So my question is - do I stay consistent with the handling to desensitize her or do I lay off her for another week? I have read so much conflicting information. Some leading me to think if I back off, I’ll never make any progress. Some leading me to think she is way too stressed and more handling will be detrimental because it is “negative” for her. Does anyone have any experience with this level of defensiveness?
Hello and welcome aboard! I am so sorry you are getting started off on the wrong foot with your new companion!
I have had several boas before, CA and BRB but none of them gave me any problems. At least not like you are having!
A couple of questions and then I am going to tag a few people:
What kind of boa
Age of boa
CBB or wild caught
@dsed @tommccarthy @lumpy @voodoomagicboas
Any of you guys have any suggestions to help with this situation?
Thank you for the welcome!
Female BCI - IMG Arabesque Jungle
6 months old, captive bred
Welcome! Some boas are just naturally defensive and in my experience consistency pays off. Regular handling in small sessions is what Id recommend so you dont cause undo stress. Only once have I had a boa that was just too fiesty to handle no matter how long I tried but most came around. Seeing that yours is still young I’d say to keep trying and hopefully she’ll calm down for you.
Thank you for the reassurance! I’m definitely willing to put in the work, just want to be sure it is in fact the right approach.
The only time I back off is if you notice the boa not eating. Other than that I truly believe that staying consistent usually pays off. All of my boas get handled regularly so they’re used to it by the time they reach adult sizes. You’re very welcome, you’ll find a lot of helpful, friendly and knowledgeable people here👍
Another thing I’ve read conflicting advice on:
Handle during their normal “active hours” - early morning when I get up and/or later in the evening before I go to bed so as not to disturb them as much. Or, handle mid day so they are potentially calmer. Either seems to have an argument for being stressful and this may be preference too.
Curious on your thoughts here.
Just my opinion, I think people can over think things. My boas never cared what time of day or night I held them from what I saw. Usually they’re more active at night but it never made any difference with my boas.
Also, we love pictures here so please feel free to join the discussion on the boa thread, good friends and awesome boas
@dsed @caron here is the spicy baby in all her glory:
I only get to see her like this after our handling sessions where she’ll explore or have a short soak in her water. And it always gets me thinking, how can such a pretty girl be such a meanie, lol. We will be friends if it kills me! After about an hour she goes back into hiding under her clutter and substrate, which she for some reason prefers over her hides.
Thats a big beautiful girl! Absolutely stunning
Her name is Voodoo! Short for Voodoo Mama JuJu if you are a fan of The Office.
Gorgeous boa! That is an incredible combo
Looks like you’ve got solid advice so far. Something that may help would be to black out or cover all sides of the tank but one (front). It may help her feel more secure and reduce her stress levels?
Hopefully with regular handling she’ll realize you = crawl/climb time and calms down.
Thank you for the reassurance! I did black out the back of her tank after I noticed her burrowing instead of using her hides. But I’m thinking she still feels vulnerable. Today I handled her then upon finishing, moved her to a 40 qt bin with a solid color lid with all her same substrate and accessories. I am hoping this adds to her feeling secure. And I will say, there did seem to be some progress today. Only striking and fleeing, no hissing. And she has been a hissing machine so this did reassure me some! I think we’re SLOWLY moving in the right direction.
That’s interesting! I’m not familiar with The Office but judging by her hissy fits I think the name suits her very well!
This is nothing against her breeder but it is possible that her breeder did not handle her much before you got her.
Some breeders handle their snakes more than others to start the socialization process. If she wasn’t handled much this might explain the hissing.
However this may not be the case at all so again nothing against her breeder! She may just be a hisser!
I had a beautiful Argentine pair back in the day and they were the most vocal boas I’ve ever had. The raspy hiss they would give would scare everyone that saw them but they never struck. A friendly boop on the nose and the snake cuddling commenced
hahahaha this made me laugh