Red Tailed Boas are very popular in the pet trade, active eaters, and pretty easy to care for.
Though not a beginner snake, they are certainly toward the level of advanced beginner or intermediate keeper. Let’s take a look at how red tail boas get to be the size that they do!
How big is a Red Tail Boa?
The red tail boa grows, on average, around six to eight feet long and two feet in diameter. The largest females of this species may grow as large as ten feet long, though these specimen are a rarity indeed and usually powerfed to get to this size (or of a specific lineage that is simply enormous).
When properly fed, the red tail boa usually reaches adult length by around three to five years old. Though, like all snakes, they will continue to grow in small measures for the rest of their lives, you’ll stop seeing growth spurts around this age.
They’ll also become sexually mature and ready to breed, depending on your specific snake.
Some slow growers may take up until six years of age to hit this mark, but those not of breeding size and weight (or comparable pet weight) should be examined by a veterinarian to make certain nothing is wrong.
Females Vs Males Sizes
As with most live bearing reptiles, the female red tail boas are always larger than the males at adulthood. They simply must be for a few reasons, most involving their potential reproduction capability.
If you desire a docile pet that is going to be excited for food (always feed this breed with hemostats) and ready for time out of their enclosure, look for a male in the morph that you want the most.
They’re usually cheaper and easily available at almost all reptile shows and many breeders will simply cull males that do not eat well, meaning that you will almost certainly get an easy eater and healthy red tail boa.
If you want a breeding female, you should speak directly with your breeder to best figure out what you need in a female red tail boa for your breeding program.
Don’t They Stay Small If Their Enclosure Does?
No. This is a myth and it should not be perpetrated. The red tail boa will continue to grow even if neglected, underfed, or smashed into a container that is far too small for it.
Please, do not do these things and attempt to stunt the growth of your beautiful, innocent pet.
If you cannot handle a 30-40 pound, potentially 10 foot long snake living in your home and taking up the square footage they need to be comfortable, reconsider getting a red tail boa.
Bluntly, rescues are full of these snakes because many people hear that the snake may become this large and say “oh, but that won’t happen to us!” and then it does.
If your red tail boa does not get this large but remains within normal parameters for the species, that’s okay, too. But do be prepared to spend potentially thousands on enclosures, safety equipment (hooks, locks, etc), food, and so forth over the lifetime of your red tail boa.
They are not a cheap species to care for and yet another good reason why they are not classified as a beginner snake, but as something a bit more advanced.
Will I Need More Than One Person To Handle an Adult Sized Red Tail Boa?
Generally speaking, it is safe for an able-bodied person with typical human musculature to maintain control of a snake that weighs less than 20 pounds and is smaller in girth than their forearm.
This generally covers most red tail boas until they’re just coming into that adult phase of their life and leaving being a juvenile.
Whether or not you’re going to need a second pair of hands for your red tail will depend on several factors. The first is how often you handle the neonate and how often you continue to handle it.
While handling is not always going to save you if a snake makes a mistake, it will help your snake be comfortable with you and understand that you are not a terrifying predator.
The second depends on the exact size and muscle structure of your red tail boa. Red tail boas are powerful constrictors and very much capable of an accident with their human keeper, or a simple misunderstanding, at adult weight and strength; especially females.
This video from Brian Barczyk will give you a good idea on what to expect at adult sizes:
Once your red tail boa is larger than 5-6 feet in length or heavier than 15 pounds, we recommend making sure someone else is in the room with you (or available in the home to check in with you) when handling.
Snakes larger than 7 feet will appreciate the support of another set of human hands when handling their heavy bodies away from the ground or otherwise caring for them.
A snake hook is also appropriate for red tail boas if you have someone that can monitor but may not be able to assist due to, say, an injury or illness.
All in all, we recommend quite a bit of handling with this species early on and as much as you can after they reach 15 pounds, but with all safety concerns in check. Your red tail boa is unlikely to harm you, but they are ambush hunters and may mistake your hand for prey.
Appropriately-Sized Prey Animals For Large Red Tail Boas
Most red tail boas start out on a large mouse 2-3 times per week until they reach around two and a half to three feet long. A medium-sized rat is appropriate at this point, 1-2 times per week (watch for obesity, rats are fattier than mice).
Once your red tail boa has reached six feet in length, we recommend starting them on a rabbit each week until they are at a weight you desire for breeding or pet care.
Rats can easily be traded for small rabbits, especially rabbit kits, to get your red tail boa used to the scent of a rabbit.