How To Handle A Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Safely)

The Brazilian rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria) is a beautiful boa that is popular for its unique scales. If you are considering one for a pet, you may be wondering how to safely handle a Brazilian rainbow boa.

Brazilian rainbow boas are easy to handle if you understand snakes. Pick them up with confidence and let them hang onto you.

Typical Behavior

rainbow boa in attack posture

Most Brazilian rainbow boas are a bit nippy and defensive as babies. This is pretty typical for young snakes since they are common targets for predators.

They become calmer as they age. Adult rainbow boas are typically curious. Most snakes will enjoy looking around during handling.

If your snake has never been handled or had a bad experience with a previous owner, it may be very defensive.

This could be shown by striking and biting. Adult snakes can be calmed down with patient handling. Mind you, some animals may just prefer to be left alone.

It is a good idea to at least teach them that they will not be harmed by handling. This will make cleaning and vet visits less stressful for both of you.

How to Handle a Brazilian Rainbow Boa

woman handling a rainbow boa

The first step before you handle a rainbow boa is to make sure your hands are clean. You want to get rid of any scents so your snake doesnā€™t mistake you for a meal.

Next, open the enclosure and get ready to pick up your snake. If you are doing hook training, be sure to touch the snake to let it know that this is a handling session.

Snake hooks are also a great tool for very defensive snakes. Pick up your snake with a hook under the middle of the body or by getting your hand under the body and lifting it out.

Make sure you donā€™t squeeze the snake or make it feel restricted. This can make a snake panic since it thinks you will try to eat it.Ā 

One great tip is to place the snake on your hand or arm that you are holding very still. If your arm is still, your snake may feel like you are a tree branch and feel safer.

woman handling rainbow boa

Gently guide your snake and keep its head away from your face until you are sure it will not bite. Keep handling sessions short, under 5 minutes at first.

Watch for signs your snake is getting upset, like curling into an ā€˜Sā€™ or ceasing any exploration.

This is a sign your snake needs to go back into the enclosure. Most Brazilian rainbow boas will not want to be handled for more than about 10 minutes at a time even if they like the chance to explore.Ā 

If your snake is very nippy, you can wear gloves to handle it. Being confident with your snake will help make them less defensive.

If you have an adult that was never handled, you will need to take the time to teach the snake that you will not hurt it.

handling a brazilian rainbow boa

Animals that have never been handled may associate the enclosure opening with a meal. They may think that they need to grab their meal as soon as you open the enclosure.

Your snake may also be a bit scared if it is not used to being touched. Most animals will calm down when you take them out of the enclosure.

Try a snake hook and wear gloves. Many snakes will calm down if you set them on your arm and let them explore.

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If they are still trying to bite, your snake may not be used to human scent. Put a lightly worn piece of clothing in the enclosure and work with your snake once a week.

Be sure you do not put back a snake that is biting you. This will teach the snake that biting will not get it returned to the enclosure.

You should be sure to monitor for signs of stress. Brazilian rainbow boas will go on feeding strikes if they are stressed. If your snake gets stressed, be sure to leave them alone for at least a week or two.

Only go into the enclosure to clean, replace the water, and feed the snake. Giving your snake time to relax will help it learn to trust you more.Ā 

What to Do if Your Brazilian Rainbow Boa Bites You

baby brazilian rainbow boa showing its teeth

Bites are part of life when you are trying to get a snake to tame down. Brazilian rainbow boas canā€™t do much damage to you.

They may draw blood but it is similar to a cat scratch in the pain and level of care a wound would need. The most important step if your snake bites you is to stay calm.

Most bites are defensive, so your snake will likely release you quickly. If it does not, be sure not to jerk back or try to pull the snake off.

This can break its jaws or teeth and possibly kill the snake.

You can drip cold water on the snake to get it to let you go. Once it does, handle it for a bit longer before putting it away.

You do not want to teach the snake that biting you will get it put back into its home. It will start biting you whenever it wants to go back.

Make sure you clean the wound out. A bandage and some antibiotic ointment will help prevent any infections.

If your snake bites often, wear thick gloves and be sure to give it plenty of time to relax. Only open its enclosure for essential tasks like cleaning and misting.


Brazilian rainbow boas are not typically aggressive snakes. Handling them is similar to handling other species.

They can be nippy as babies, but most animals will tame down with time and patience.

If you have any experience, be sure to leave a comment below. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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