Added 27 June 2002. Last updated 14 January 2010: updated Introduction, section on Charina and improved hyperlinks.

A quick guide to BOAS:

Rosy and Rubber Boas


Genera Charina (Rubber Boas) and Lichinura (Rosy Boas)

These two genera consist of smallish North American snakes that reach about 3 ft or so in length. These are the only members of the Boidae found north of Mexico. Charina is a temperate climate snake, reaching as far north as Canada, but the Lichinura species are from warm and arid parts of the continent. The Rubber Boa is seldom seen in the pet trade, but Rosy Boas are reasonably popular pet snakes. Provided their requirement of dry environment is met they are supposedly fairly straightforward to keep.

Species Common Name Origin Adult size Notes
Subfamily Erycinae
Charina bottae Rubber Boa Canada (S British Columbia), NW USA inc. Utah, California, Montana and Wyoming 14-33" The most northerly-distributed boa, this is a snake that lives in cool coniferous forests and is occasionally active at temperatures just a few degrees above freezing (Walls). The name derives from its brown and rather shiny appearance. It is quite omnivorous in nature and takes both vertebrate and invertebrate prey, but with a preference for small rodents and shrews and can apparently be weaned over to prekilled rodents. This snake is no longer common in the hobby due partly to a lack of interest and partly due to environmental concerns, but occasionally is available legally. Walls recommends it as a hardy and interesting pet once it has got used to a captive diet. Stebbins notes possible longevity of 40-50 years in the wild. Scalation details: head covered dorsally with large symmetrical plates; no enlarged chin shields. Dorsal scalation: small, smooth. Other: tail short and blunt, may be used as a defensive decoy while the boa buries its head; pupil vertically oval. Coloration: dorsally dark to light brown, pinkish tan or olive green; ventrally yellow, orange-yellow or cream; patterning may be absent, or a few dark ventrolateral flecks, or occasionally extensive mottling on belly; northern specimens especially may have patterning on ventrals. Young are dorsally pink to tan, ventrally light yellow, pink to cream. Reproduction: anal spurs present in male; 2-8 live young born Aug-Nov. [SOURCE: Stebbins, Walls]
Lichinura trivirgata Rosy Boa SW USA, Baja California, Sonora in Mexico 2-3' An attractive and close relative of the Rubber Boa Charina bottae. Although it has been lumped together with the latter in the genus Charina, Walls points out the scalation on the top of the head is quite different, C. bottae having large and fairly regular plates while L. trivirgata has small and irregular ones. The Rosy Boa's favoured habitat is also generally dryer and warmer than that of the Rubber Boa, preferring dry savannahs and hills. Walls recommends this boa as easy provided that humidity is kept very low: not an easy task in some parts of North America or Europe. For this reason he suggests that a water bowl should not be kept in the cage but instead provided for a while and then withdrawn. The taxonomy of the subspecies has become somewhat confused of late (see below). The patterning and colouring of all the subspecies is attractive, usually broad and brightly-coloured longitudinal stripes on a cream or yellow background. Reproduction: 3-14 live young born Oct-Nov. [SOURCES: Stebbins, Walls]
L. t. trivirgata Mexican Rosy Boa S Arizona, Sonora in Mexico, S Baja California Nominate subspecies.
L. t. gracia Desert Rosy Boa W Arizona through to S California Validity now questioned by Spiteri (see Walls).
L. t. roseofusca Coastal Rosy Boa SW California, N Baja California Formerly. DIFFICULTY LEVEL: 1
L. t. bostici   Gulf of California (Isla Cedros and Isla Natividad) Validity of this subspecies now questioned: viewed by Spiteri as synonym of L. t. trivirgata. The main differences between the two are slight ones in scalation (Walls).
L. t. saslowi Mid-Baja Rosy Boa C Baja  


Boas: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Doug Wagner, Barrons, 1996, New York/Hong Kong. Excellent book covering all the boas, including the obscure species unlikely to be seen. Highly recommended.

Boas Rosy and Ground, Jerry G Walls, TFH, 1994. Walls writes well on most if not all herpetological subjects, and this is no exception: a useful and informative guide to rubber boas, rosy boas, sand boas and Pacific island ground boas, covering both natural history and captive care as well as some of the disputes over subspecies. There is a bonus chapter with sections on the Burrowing Python Calabria reinhardtii, the Neotropical Python Loxocemus bicolor and the Sunbeam Snakes, Xenopeltis sp. Recommended.

Snakes: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, R D & P Bartlett, Barrons, 1997, New York/Hong Kong. Covers snakes in general but has a good section on the more popular and available boas.

A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, R Stebbins, Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin, Boston/New York 2003.

Snakes of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford, 1986/1992, London. A good book with the only reservation being that applied to Dieter Schmidt's, ie some of the taxonomy/classification is now out of date. See also Mattison's Keeping and Breeding Snakes (Blandford) which is probably more immediately useful to snake keepers.


The Boidae (Boas and Pythons) section of the JCVI/TIGR reptile database provided (as always) much useful information, especially regarding subspecies, distributions and the history of recent taxonomic changes.


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