Lee Richardson Zoo

Rosy Boa

Order:  Squamata – snakes and lizards

Family:  Boidae – boas, pythons, anacondas

Scientific Name:  Lichanura trivirgata


DescriptionRosy boas are usually 2-3 feet long.  Their coloring varies depending on the location and the subspecies (there are thought to be 4).  Their body can be cream, buff, or gray, and they have 3 wide longitudinal stripes that can range from black to reddish brown, brown, or orange.  Juveniles are lighter than adults.  The scales are smooth and shiny.  The head is only slightly wider than the neck, and the eyes are small with vertical pupils.  They do not have the large plate-like scales on the head that are found in many other boas.

Home Range: Southwest United States and northwest Mexico


Habitat Type:  Rocky deserts and semi-desert scrubland


Reproduction:  Rosy boas breed in late spring.  It is thought that females might store sperm.  They are ovoviviparous, and their eggs hatch inside the female’s body in the fall.  Shortly afterwards, the female gives birth to the young.  There are usually 4-5 young born in a litter, but litters up to 12 have been recorded.  At birth, the young are 10-12 inches long.  They shed for the first time when they are 7-10 days old, and usually double in size during their first year.  Females do not care for the young after birth.


Diet in the Wild:  Mostly rodents, and also birds


Diet in the Zoo:  Mice


General Information:  The rosy boa is one of only 2 boas found in North America.  Its genus name translates to “finger-like tail”, and the species name means “three stripes”.  Along with other boas and their relatives, this is considered to be a “primitive” snake.  Its skull is heavier and its jaws are less flexible than those of the more advanced snakes, and it has a pelvic girdle and the remains of back limbs.  This species does not have heat-sensitive pits that are found in many other boas. 

When feeding, rosy boas lie motionless and wait for prey to move into striking distance.  They capture prey with their many backward-curving teeth, and then kill it by constriction.  They are very secretive, and spend the daylight hours hiding.  They use rodent burrows, or sometimes bury themselves in sand or loose soil.  In the colder parts of their range, they hibernate through the winter.  Although they prefer habitats with little vegetation, they are excellent climbers, and will climb into bushes to capture birds.

Rosy boas are very popular as pets.  They are one of the most docile snake species, and rarely bite when handled.  If they are threatened, they coil into a ball, hiding their head within the body coils for protection.


Conservation Status:   Rosy boas are listed on CITES Appendix 2.  Although they are protected, many are illegally captured for the pet trade by using crowbars to break open the rocky crevices where they live.  They are also affected by habitat destruction.


Predators:   None listed



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Oregon Zoo website


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