Amazon tree boas (Corallus hortulanus) are beautiful snakes. They are a fairly popular species of arboreal snake among reptile keepers. If you are considering this snake as a pet, you may be wondering if you can handle Amazon tree boas.
As a general rule, you cannot handle an Amazon tree boa. These snakes have a strong feeding response and are very defensive. They will bite at any warm thing approaching them. Some are unusually calm but most are pretty reactive.
Amazon tree boas are naturally aggressive when it comes to feeding responses. They are ambush predators who can’t risk missing a meal. Most of their diet is from warm-blooded animals like birds, bats, and other mammals. This means that they will instinctively strike at anything somewhat small and warm.
They have sharp teeth and can strike up to half their body length away from their perch. This can make them very hard to deal with.
They are also defensive. Since they are small snakes, they can be common prey animals. A defensive Amazon tree boa will typically prepare to strike.
They will also typically produce musk from their cloaca and shake their tail to flick it around. This musk has a strong odor that will drive off most predators.
These snakes are very reactive when young. You will likely be bitten by a baby. Older snakes can calm down, but it isn’t guaranteed. Wild-caught individuals rarely if ever calm down. If your snake isn’t captive-bred, just expect that it will not tolerate much if any handling.
How to Handle Them
Handling your snake is sometimes necessary. You may need to do a full clean of the enclosure, or the snake may need veterinary care. You should know how to handle your snake so these tasks are easier for both of you.
Some snakes, particularly captive-bred animals will tolerate you being in the cage, particularly if they are on their perch or in a hide.
Wild-caught adults are noted as being the most likely to bite. You can work with them, and some animals will calm down. Some breeders even aim for calmer animals. However, just remember that all animals have their own personalities and reactions to humans. If you want to handle your snake, you can start with short sessions.
Some keepers have noted that placing something with you scent on the cold side of the enclosure can help acclimate the snake to humans a bit faster.
A big tip is to make sure you keep the snake’s face pointed away from your face. This can help prevent them biting you. Remember, you will likely be bitten at least a few times since these animals are very defensive. Just accept that it will happen. Most keepers describe it as about the same pain level as a bee sting.
Make sure you don’t surprise the snake. Once you open the cage, you should be certain the animal is awake and sees you before you stick your hand in. Even a very calm Amazon tree boa will lash out if it is surprised.
Remember, these are defensive animals. They will lash out, and will bite you. You may not be bitten as hard as they can. It will still hurt.
Many keepers use snake hooks to help keep the snake away from their face and make sure the snake is aware of their presence before they clean the enclosure.
These can be great tools, particularly if your snake turns out to be less docile. You can use gloves if you are worried about bites. Once you are confident, you can use whatever tool helps you work with your snake.
Gently handling the snake by scooping it from the side and allowing it to explore is a great way to start. You can teach the snake that you won’t hurt it. Keep handling sessions very short, even if the snake seems to tolerate it.
You want the interactions to be positive so the snake won’t panic and fight back if you need to remove it for any reason. Even animals that tolerate handling will likely never be as docile as something like a corn snake.
Since these snakes require very high humidity and temperature, it is best not to remove them from the enclosure. A snake at room temperature will quickly become too cold.
Everything you need to know about caring for Amazon Tree Boas in captivity:
Read our Amazon Tree Boa Care Sheet (Complete Guide)
Aggressive Amazon Tree Boas
If your snake is just naturally less fond of humans, there are still steps you can take to make basic care less stressful for both of you.
Making a trap hide works well for snakes that want to pick a fight. Just drill a hole in a flower pot that will fit the snake.
Make sure the hole is wider than the widest portion of the snake by at least 1.5 times. Invert the pot on a dish that will hold it. You can then have a flower pot that hasn’t been drilled as a lid.
If you need to clean, wait until the snake is fully inside and place the other flower pot on top.
Some keepers swear that a misting will help calm down snakes as well. You should still be careful, but it can help if you need to spot clean.
Amazon tree boas are lovely animals, but they are not snakes that are guaranteed to be docile. They will be defensive and may bite you if you aren’t careful.
Handling them can help them get the idea that you won’t hurt them, but they will never be a snake that can relax with you.
We hope this gives you a good idea of how these snakes behave. If you have any questions or experience with these snakes, please leave a comment below.