Boa (Jamaican) / Epicrates subflavus

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Boas are primitive snakes; males have two small spurs at the base of the tail which are the evolutionary remains of hind limbs

Jamaican boas are also known as yellow snakes on the island

The Jamaican boa, is as its name suggests, restricted to the island of Jamaica and is one of 10 closely related snakes found in Central and South America and the Caribbean. It should not be confused with the common boa constrictor which is an entirely different snake found throughout Central and South American forests.

They are found in a range of habitats across the island including tropical, montane and dry scrub forest, woodland and mangroves. Like most of its relatives it has arboreal habits. They spend the day hidden away in the dense vegetation or tree holes, rock crevices or burrows. They may emerge from time to time to bask in the sun and warm their bodies Jamaican boas come out at night to hunt a variety of small animals including rats, bats lizards, birds, and frogs.

Jamaican boas are non-venomous snakes which, having located the prey by smell using the tongue, ambush it and catch it in their sharp teeth. They then suffocate the prey in the strong body coils which are thrown around it. Once the prey is dead it is swallowed whole, head first.

Although Jamaican boas produce eggs they never lay them. After mating the female retains the fertilised eggs in her body for 6-7 months; the time taken for the young to develop – this process is known as ovoviviparity. Once they have absorbed the yolk sacs of their eggs, the young snakes hatch inside the female and are then born fully formed – 50cm long and weighing 15g – and active. A single female Jamaican boa can produce more than 40 young.

The Jamaican boa is an endangered species threatened by habitat loss and predation by species introduced to the island by man.