How dangerous is a boa?

kmurphy

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Before buying ANY of the subspecies of the Boa family, a prospective buyer should consider the eventual size of the snake. A normal "Red Tail" will grow to the region of 8-10 foot and as thick as a mans mid thigh, when ANY snake reaches these proportions it is capable of killing an adult human and younger specimens will be capable of killing children. The distinction should be made here that the snake is capable of killing, though is in most cases not disposed towards it. This leads nicely to the first section of the care sheet.
This emphasis are mine.

I was playing around and came across this care sheet. This caught my eye as I thought it was a pretty extreme statement to start out with for a care sheet on boas. I have some pretty large boas 9ft+/- and I don't believe they could constrict a small child let alone an adult. In addition I don't think I've ever read where a boa constrictor has ever killed a human.
This really doesn't have anything to do with this site but I was wondering what others thought. Here's the link:

http://www.kingsnake.com/boapage/caresheets/boaconstrictorcare.html
The caresheet was written by David Fulton.
 
I certainly do not see where it leads nicely into a care sheet. Depends on people's perspective of a small child, but I don't think an adult 9+ foot boa constrictor can kill an adult person, unless that person is a 4 foot tall 90 pound frail 100 year old. I agree that paragraph is a bit extreme, of course some people try to scare others away from reptiles thinking they are doing a service to reptiles while endorsing the owning of them.
 
I'm with you...it seems somewhat dramatic. I have handled some extremely aggressive Colombians in the 10 ft. range but none were capable of taking my life.
 
It does appear to be worded as a way to scare people but my own personal opinion is that ANY snake over 8 feet should never be handled alone. Always have someone nearby. Accidents can happen and it is hard to remove a larger constrictor. I can see a disclaimer as useful in some circumstances. Maybe it will deter impulse buyers.

I personally got coiled by a 10 foot retic one time (this was supposedly a "tame" one too). It was only around the leg but to try and uncoil while keeping the teeth away was not fun. Thankfully I had someone else in the room who knew how to help. These animals are EXTREMELY strong and hard to manuever alone. Anyone who has ever dealt with a sub adult or adult retic can tell you that they go where they want. You basically guide them. If they are intent on biting and coiling, you'll be thankfull someone else is there.
 
I really hate to say it, but I think some of you are letting your love of reptiles get in the way of rational thought. Don't get me wrong, I've never been particularly impressed with the strength of BCI/BCC, but at least I am realistic enough to know & admit that I haven't been on the receiving end of an intentional squeeze. Even the large imports I've dealt with tended to strike to keep you away, and/or "hang on" when being handled. Take just a moment to think about the weight and feel of a 9ft boa, and the amount of pressure you've felt as they have tightened a bit to secure their position while being held. If any of you has ever draped one around your neck (I know, none of us would do anything so foolhardy, lol), think about the way it felt as it moved. None of you has ever felt a flash of discomfort or thought about what could happen? A boa of that size is certainly capable of killing somebody, unless you think there is some huge difference in ability between a boa and a burm (I do know of at least one incident where an 8-9 ft burm killed an adult.
 
heck - I have a tendency to put my dumerils boas over my shoulder while I am cleaning their cages. Being largely terrestrial, they seem less than comfortable on the moving tree (me) and the neck is a natural place to hold on. They have never wrapped around my neck, but they have tightened up and put some pressure on the sides...enough to make me really uncomfortable - and that is with 6 fters. Give them a little size and "intent", and...well, you can see where I am going. Just because we are smart enough to avoid the problems, and the snakes don't consider us prey, doesn't mean that they are incapable. I don't go around promoting this aspect of keeping snakes, but when confronted by the question I am compelled to deal with it honestly.

*edit* by intent, I did not mean to imply an urge to kill us - but rather, a reason to constrict harder (any reason at all)
 
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I have to agree with Harald. Though it may be very unlikely, I believe it completely possible for a snake of 9 feet to kill a person. How many novice folks do you see think it is a very cool thing to do to walk around with a large snake draped around their neck? Just judging by the pressure I have felt from a large snake "holding on" to my arm, I do not doubt if they wanted to, they could very well exert that much and much more pressure around a person's neck, and without that person having ready assistance from another person, it could kill them.
 
Nah, I'm still not on that page.

I suppose if you're considering that the human would take no action in the event of a strike, or would be completely incapacitated due to some other situation (i.e., no free hands/feet/teeth), then I suppose it's possible, but... I really just don't see it is as a reasonable scenario.

I'm not saying they're not capable of inflicting some major damage, nor am I saying that it's not advisable to live by the "one person per 6 ft. of snake" rule of handling. I'm just saying that I've never seen a 10 ft. boa that I felt was capable of killing a human.

Does anyone know of a such an event?
 
Not a boa but burms and retics have so there is still the chance it could happen even if it is remote.
 
ms_terese said:
Nah, I'm still not on that page.

I suppose if you're considering that the human would take no action in the event of a strike, or would be completely incapacitated due to some other situation (i.e., no free hands/feet/teeth), then I suppose it's possible, but... I really just don't see it is as a reasonable scenario.?
Terese, I must point out that "conventional" constriction - whereby the snake kills the prey by compressing the chest wall so the lungs cannot fill - is not the only means. It takes significantly less effort to compress the carotid arteries and decrease/stop blood flow to the brain. Compression of the trachea is also possible (to a degree, even without significant damage to the cartilagenous rings). Now, imagine the keeper that has a large snake around his/her neck. The snake begins to tighten for whatever reason, perhaps trapping one of the keepers hands in the process. You really don't see this as a recipe for disaster (read: death)? Free feet are of little use if you are in a closed room...unless you are suggesting that one might be able to disentangle themselves from a constricting boid with their feet??? And teeth?? Are you really suggesting that one could chew their way free if a large constrictor was wrapped around their neck - in reality, the person would probable not even be able to sink his teeth in the animal.


ms_terese said:
I'm just saying that I've never seen a 10 ft. boa that I felt was capable of killing a human.
And I have never seen a 10 ft boa that I felt was not capable. Thankfully, we can have differing opinions, even express and discuss them. Have a great weekend!! (its gonna be busy at work, and I have a ton of things to do at home, so I might not be around to play much)
 
Please don't take any of my above posts to indicate that I have lived in fear of my captives, lol. That is certainly NOT the case. As previously mentioned, I rarely focus on that aspect of things. Do I think it is likely that a 9 ft boa is going to kill its keeper (or any other adult, for that matter) - no. I just admit to the possibility that it could happen under the right circumstances. It may just be related to my experiences...I have had my arm constricted by a 5 ft Afrock, with the result of my hand turning purple and opening against my will (we were holding onto each other at the time). That was a first for me...was my life in danger - absolutely not. Did it clue me in to the snake's strength and potential? Most definitely. I have also had a 10 ft Afrock that threw a coil around my neck, and another around my "free hand" as I reached up (my other hand had grabbed her to prevent the impending strike, and in the ensuing struggle was dragged closer to my face). I couldn't open the door, but I did kick it pretty hard with my free feet, lol. My then girlfriend simply turned up the television because I was making so much noise, lol. I'll admit there was a frightened moment...and I will say that if I had panicked, or had not had the experience I did at that time, I might not be typing this now. Of course, one could easily argue that my story just proves your point, that a snake of that size simply isn't capable of killing an adult person. Having been in that position, I strongly feel that the potential is there.
Admittedly, both of those experiences were with pi$$ed off, imported Afrocks...but I am not willing to make some leap of faith that says a comparably sized boa couldn't do similar. The drive to do so may not be there, as a rule...but what if it was on any given day?
 
Please don't take any of my above posts to indicate that I have lived in fear of my captives, lol.
I didn't take it that way at all.

You're probably correct....under the absolute right circumstances (or would those be the wrong circumstances), it could happen...but I'm going to keep it in the same category of likelihood of my dog killing me, my propane grill blowing me to high heaven, or slipping on a wet bathroom floor and ramming the faucet through my head.... :) That is, with some basic common sense, I have a much greater chance of being struck by lightning~!
 
i think that the possability of an 8 or 9 ft boa being able to kill someone is very real . it may not be likely , but its still very real . i think the one thing that some are over looking is that most of the people posting on this thread are experienced keepers who know how to deal with a situation like this . where i see the possibility of death being a real outcome from a large boa is in the hands of an inexperienced person . i work in a very large petshop in the reptile department and i see every day someone will come in wanting a "big snake" even though they have never owned a snake or even done any research on them . where i work we (thankfully) are allowed to not sell an animal to someone who we feel is not qualified to handle it . there are alot of other places that dont worry about things like experience and just look at the bottom line . now look at that same 9 or 10 ft boa in the hands of someone who doesnt know how strong and fast they can be . say that boa strikes and coils someone who hasnt a clue and they panick and freeze up or just plain flail about uselessly . or they are wearing the boa around their neck to show off or just cause it makes them feel cool . they have already given the boa a headstart . it doesnt take very long at all to be choked unconsious with the right pressure on the neck . once unconsious its just a few more heartbeats till death .
just my 2 cents worth .
 
kmurphy said:
I have some pretty large boas 9ft+/- and I don't believe they could constrict a small child let alone an adult.


This phrase suprised me slightly. I've even fealt somewhat uncomfortable when Freddy (3ft) is getting a wrap and a half around my neck. Of course, a halfway able adult would more than likely be able to fend off a large boa...But the small child bit...I'm not so sure about. Is it likely a boa would attack a small child? I doubt it, but I think a large boa would be more than able to take out a child.


- Damian
 
Damian, I guess I'll have to retract that a bit. When I wrote that I was thinking more of the more normal type of constriction, where the snake is on the floor or chair, strikes then constricts. It wasn't well thought out and I wouldn't leave a child alone with my snakes. However, I've never heard of an instance where a boa has killed anyone.
After reading these posts I agree that it is best to be cautious. As far as a snake around the neck, this can happen with any constrictor. Carl Kaulfeld wrote about an incident with a rat (or pine) snake. I've just never considered a boa a threat to human life in the least, so I was surprised by the statement in the beginning of the care sheet.
 
I honestly think that it was in good intention

If the impulse buyer were to read it and see that statement then either they are not going to buy the animal or they will do more research into the particular species they were interested in. What harm does that do.

We have to look at the facts. How many pet stores lie or do not tell their customers of the dangers of the large snakes? How many burms are there in the Everglades right now that were released because they got bigger than the customer knew about. In Glynn County were I live, there has been at least 3 red tails released into the wild for whatever reason and who knows how many burms. Alot of these larger snakes grow fast and get expensive really quick.

Georgia in all its brilliance is trying to pass a law now similar to Florida. Only problem is our ban will include all species of Pythons and Boas. To own one you have to buy a permit that will cost you $300 a year.

I am glad that is leading into a care sheet. I honestly think it will keep the impulse buyer away and leave the larger snakes to people who are responsible enough to get the facts before getting the animal. We have to remember that for every honest animal dealer (one who put all the facts out before selling an animal) there is probably two that does not.
 
I am glad that is leading into a care sheet. I honestly think it will keep the impulse buyer away and leave the larger snakes to people who are responsible enough to get the facts before getting the animal. We have to remember that for every honest animal dealer (one who put all the facts out before selling an animal) there is probably two that does not.
I disagree. The impulse buyer isn't checking caresheets before purchase anyway. I think it adds to the "fear factor" when it doesn't identify how extremely unlikely it would be for a boa constrictor to kill a human.

I'm still looking for a documented event.
 
I have never seen of a boa incident in killing someone. However I did see a special on snakes/Snakebites from Nat geographic that had A man who was killed by I think a Burm. that was about the size of an adult Boa. However in this story the keeper was wearing the snake around his neck and there was no one nearby. It did say he had had the snake for a number of years and it had never been prone to attack. The animal was killed in the process of trying to remove it from it's keeper. This is the only documented type of case I could come by.
 
Right on Kmurphy. But I still believe that it's possible for a boa to strike and constrict a child. Highly improbable for sure. But if a small snake thinks my hand is a meal (which has happened more than a couple times), then a large one might think a child is a meal given the right set of circumstances. Hungry snake/somebody preparing chicken, snake tastes it in and the air and sees toddler walking or crawling around. I know, I know... this is not a very likely scenerio, but given what we know of feeding response in boas...possible?

That being said. I still think you're right about how strong they put that opener. Whether it's good for the hobby or not, it's still misinformation. But ads some scary importance (albeit not true) to that care sheet...laughing

- Damian
 
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