Dumeril’s Boa Care

The Dumeril’s boa is known as the pearl of Madagascar and for good reason. Known for their beauty and docile temperament, these boas stay at a manageable size their entire life. Most hobbyists consider them a medium-sized boa with adults reaching an average of six feet.

While shyer than other boa species, they make a perfect pet snake once acclimated to their new home. With only modest popularity, the Dumeril’s boa has achieved a cult following. No fancy morphs are available and no subspecies exists at this time. I wouldn’t have it any other way because this snake is perfect just the way it is.

Dumeril’s boa make great pets
The Dumeril's boa is also known as the Madagascar ground boa.

The pearl of Madagascar

The Dumeril’s boa originates from Madagascar. Madagascar is a large island off the southeastern coast of Africa.  The island hosts a wonderful variety of reptiles. It’s a dream destination for herpetologists and snake keepers alike.

It’s also possible that the Dumeril’s boa is found on barrier reef islands off the coast of Madagascar.

At one time, the exportation of Dumeril’s boas was very common. Today, importing animals from the island is heavily restricted. Unfortunately, the Dumerl’s Boa is facing extinction in its native home of Madagascar. Luckily, they breed easily and are highly prolific. This has allowed a group of dedicated hobbyists to keep these snakes available in the United States. These snakes are pricey, ranging between $200 and $300. I feel they’re worth every penny and highly recommend them.

Dumeril’s Boa Facts

  • Experience level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Temperament: Docile
  • Family: Boidae
  • Scientific name: Acrantophis dumerili
  • Constrictor: Yes
  • Average adult size: 4 to 6 feet
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Venom: No
  • Hardiness: Delicate (up to yearling), hardy (adulthood)
  • Stress level: Moderate to high
  • Food: Rodents
  • Reproduction: Livebearer
  • Breeding level: Easy
  • Average Temperature: 82°H/70°L
  • Humidity: 40 to 60%
  • Habitat: Terrestrial
  • UVB lighting: No, optional
  • Enclosure size: Adult - 4'L x 2'W
  • Average price range: $225 - $300

Proper snake handling for positive interaction

Gain trust from your snake through gentle handling. Be confident, handle confidently. Always treat your snake with respect. Don't be overly forceful.

Dumeril’s boa temperament – wonderful

Out of all the species of boas, the Dumeril’s has the best temperament. The only other boa that I can put as much trust in is the rosy boa. They’re shy and secretive in nature making them more prone to stress than other boas. Once this boa becomes comfortable with its surroundings, it loses some of its shyness. When acquiring a Dumeril’s boa, give it the proper time to adjust before handling. Also, wait until the snake is feeding before excessive handling. Once the snake is fully acclimated, handle regularly to keep the snake used to you.

While I’ve yet to meet a defensive Dumeril’s, I’m sure they occur from time to time.

Price

The average price for a baby Dumeril’s boa ranges from $200 to $350 averaging out to about $225. These snakes have gone up in price to an extent, but not very much.

When I was growing up during the 1980s, I often visited Pets Place 2 in Nanuet, New York. They always had at least one baby Colombian boa constrictor and one baby Dumeril’s boa for sale. The Colombian boa was always $100 and the Dumeril’s boa was always double the price. There’re currently no other phases or morphs recognized which is why the price increased only modestly. In my opinion, such a beautiful snake with a great disposition should go for higher.

Size

Consider these snakes “medium-sized” among the boa family. They stay at manageable sizes their entire lives. They make a great alternative to the giant pythons, anacondas and even larger Colombian and Argentine boas which may exceed ten feet in length.

The average length of the Dumeril’s boa is four to six feet while larger exceptions occur. Don’t power feed these snakes to boost growth. Feed them on schedule and they’ll grow to their fullest potential while achieving optimal health simultaneously. 

Enclosure

Females are larger than males. With this in mind, a full-grown Dumeril’s boa needs an enclosure space of at least four to five feet in length. They’re highly terrestrial so enclosure height isn’t a top priority. These snakes aren’t particularly active unless they’re hungry or looking for a mate during the breeding season. 

Avoid steel mesh screens because the boa might rub its nose causing injury leading to permanent deformation. Never place a heat-stone in the enclosure for warming the snake. These are very dangerous and lead to serious burns. Under the tank, heaters are preferable while my favorite heating is heat-tape controlled by a thermostat. 

Cleaning snake enclosures

Keep your snake’s enclosure clean for both its health and to prevent unpleasant odors from forming. Snakes have no hair, therefore, produce no dander. If a snake enclosure smells, it’s due to bacteria buildup and needs proper cleaning.

The way and frequency of cleaning depend on the enclosure, the snake, the substrate, and most obviously, the smell. Spot cleaning is okay as long as all the bacteria is scrapped up in the process. If you still smell an odor, you didn’t get it all. While spot cleaning works in some situations, clean the entire enclosure when necessary.

A more thorough cleaning is required when unfortunate events such as regurgitation occur. Simply scrub down hard on soiled areas and decide by your own sense of smell if you eliminated all odor-causing bacteria. It’s not hard to keep a snake enclosure from smelling but you have to stay on top of it. I highly recommend high-quality air purifiers for snake rooms.

Heating and humidity

Keep the ambient temperature at about 82°F and with a warm spot to aid digestion. Nighttime temperatures can drop about ten degrees. Keep humidity levels between 40 to 60%.

Dumeril’s boa as pets
A young female showing lots of red.

Feeding

This is where things get tricky. Like ball pythons, it’s sometimes difficult to get Dumeril’s boas to feed, especially babies.

While there’re many hacks for this, one must remember patience above all else. I have used many different methods to get these snakes started. Having an understanding of their biology helps in getting them to feed. 

The Dumeril’s boa is an ambush predator and scavenger

They’re found in arid scrubland and forests in the wild. Their colors act as camouflage against the forest floor in which they hide under leaves awaiting a meal. Its prey varies including birds, lizards, and other small mammals. This is why Dumeril’s boa needs a substrate to hide under to feel secure and induce feeding. 

As a true scavenger, this boa is known to eat other snakes, including its own kind. For this reason, house captive Dumeril’s boas separately, especially when young. In captivity, the Dumeril’s boa can thrive on a staple diet of rodents.

Failure to launch – How to jump-start feeding

Keeping in mind that the Dumeril’s boa is both shy and an ambush predator gives insight on how to resolve feeding issues. Assuming the temperature and humidity is correct and the snake has a warm spot, feeding problems most likely due to stress.

One trick that worked for me on two occasions is to use a substrate that the snake can burrow down into. First, I moved two non-feeding Dumeril’s boas into small shoe boxes. I prefer using paper towels as opposed to aspen bedding, so I took several towels and shredded them. The snakes now had a tight enclosure and hid under the shredded paper towels. After offering live fuzzy mice, both snakes quickly accepted them. Problem solved.

The next step is to switch them over to pre-killed and then frozen/thawed eventually.

Dumeril’s boa care
The Dumeril's boa has one of the best dispositions of the boa family.

Pre-killed before frozen-thawed

Feed them live at least three times before offering pre-killed. A week after their third live meal, offer a freshly killed rodent that’s still warm and twitching.

Be sure not to make eye contact with the snake when offering the rodent or you might spook it into not eating. Walk away after leaving the prey item in the enclosure and see if the snake takes it. I’ll bet it does. After this, it’s time to move to the final step.

Time for frozen-thawed

After two or three pre-killed meals a week apart from each other, offer a thawed rodent that’s been warmed up under a light. Alternatively, a blow dryer works well for this. Don’t ever thaw or cook a rodent in the microwave. Make sure the rodent is warm and dry excess moisture with a paper towel. Remember, the idea is to mimic a live rodent. Again, avoid making eye contact with the snake during this attempt.

Dangle the rodent in front of the snake’s nose. If there’s interest, patiently mimic movement using your wrist. When the snake takes it, slightly wiggle the rodent for a second so the snake strengthens its grip. Then, let go. If the snake doesn’t take it, try again in a week. You can also leave the rodent in the enclosure overnight. This worked for me with a particular specimen. He readily carrion feeds now which is perfect.

For more feeding tips, check out our feeding hacks page HERE.

Similar looking snakes
While this snake appears defensive, that's not the case in this particular situation.

Shedding

Shedding problems rarely occur with this species. These snakes do not need humid conditions, in fact, they do better in a less humid environment.

Nevertheless, raise humidity slightly before a potential shed, or by adding a humidity chamber to the enclosure. 

In the case of poor shedding, a simple soak in the bathtub or large plastic tub will do the trick. Once the snake has soaked, gently peel away any remaining skin like a banana.

Allow the boa to spend at least fifteen minutes of soaking. In the case of retained eye caps, gently apply all-natural mineral oil to the eye with a q-tip and leave it overnight. By the next morning, the eye cap should have popped off. If not, repeat the mineral oil treatment and try again.

Water

Always make sure Dumeril’s boas have access to a clean water bowl. This snake gets pretty strong which sometimes leads them to tip the water bowl over, causing you to clean up a mess that could be put off until the next time the snake defecates. The solution is simple, use a heavier water bowl that’s width doesn’t decrease towards the bottom.

Besides, heavy-duty plastic water bowls intended for large dogs, smaller water bowls made of tin are also available with a rubber ring around the perimeter of the bottom of the bowl. This will not only prevent the bowl from being tipped, but it’ll also keep the snake from moving it around the enclosure to some extent.

Dumeril’s boa substrate may vary

I use paper towels as the substrate for all my Dumeril’s boas. I triple-layer them so they’re able to hide between the towels for a feeling of security. Paper towels are absorbent and great for cleaning messes fast. Usually, I only need to roll the soiled towel up, spot clean the area, discard the old towels and replace them with new ones.

Paper towels might not work for all Dumeril’s boas

First, if you keep your Dumeril’s boa as a display animal, paper towels don’t look particularly appealing. Just remember, the more ornaments in the enclosure, the longer it takes to clean.

Some of the Dumeril’s boas that are particularly prone to stress might need loose substrate to burrow in to feel secure. Aspen bedding and cypress mulch work well. Cypress mulch is actually a better choice than aspen because it’s less dusty.

Never use pine or cedar bedding as a substrate for any of your snakes. I’m surprised this stuff is still on the market. Especially cedar shavings, which is harmful to even mammals.

Dumeril’s Boa Care Video

Dumeril’s boa breeding

These snakes reach maturity between three to five years. Allow at least four years to pass before any breeding attempts. They’re ovoviviparous meaning they bear live young. They produce litters from five to thirty.

Mating season occurs during late winter through early spring. Lowering the temperatures in the enclosure during winter months stimulates breeding. Being from Madagascar, the Dumeril’s boa doesn’t need extremely low temperatures to get in breeding mode.

Males have anal spurs and have thinner tails than females. Females are also much larger and heavier than males making them sexually dimorphic. 

Breeding Dumeril’s boas are as easy as placing a male and female together in December and waiting until spring for babies to arrive. These snakes are known for not producing especially large litters like their New World cousins. If you’re lucky, you may score eight to ten babies.

Caring for baby Dumeril’s boas

Separate babies into their own enclosures. Use something small like a shoebox so the baby feels more secure. As for substrate, you have a few options. You can use paper towels if you layer them so the boa has a place to hide. Also, add a small hide box.

Another option is to shred paper towels so the boa can burrow down below them. Some may use cypress mulch or aspen. Personally, I don’t like those two options. Provide a warm and cool spot. This is easily done with heat tape and a thermostat. I suggest getting a snake rack with a small shoebox size tubs. Get one with heat tape already installed so all that’s left for you to do is set the thermostat.

Set the thermostat at about 80℉. Don’t cook the babies! If you live in a cooler climate where the ambient temperature is low, raise the thermostat a little. 

Wait for babies to shed before attempting to feed them

This is the tricky part. The best way to go about it is to get the babies on frozen/thawed as soon as possible. If they won’t take thawed rodents, get the snake’s feeding with live pinkie or fuzzy mice. Once you’ve confirmed that they’re eating, start trying to switch them over to thawed rodents.

A little trick I’ve learned is to start with fresh, pre-killed mice. This is sometimes called “stunning” the mouse. With the rodent still twitching, the snake should eagerly snap it up. From there, begin mimicking movement with thawed mice. Warm prey items up with a blow dryer to imitate natural body heat.

Eventually, with persistence and patience, they’ll switch over to frozen/thawed. After that’s achieved, they’ll most likely begin to carrion feed.

Getting babies started on birds

Some keepers start non-feeding baby Dumeril’s boas off on birds. The problem is, it could make it harder to get them feeding on rodents. When it’s a matter of life or death and as a last resort, start them out on birds. Quickly switch them over to rodents as soon as possible.

Dumeril's Boa
Named after french herpetologist André Marie Constant Duméril.

André Marie Constant Duméril

André Marie Constant Duméril (1774 – 1860) was a French herpetologist. He wrote a book in 1806 called the Zoologie analytique which covered the animal kingdom as it was known back then. 

Fifteen species of animals are named after him. Besides the Dumeril’s boa includes the Dumeril’s Monitor and the Duméril’s fringe-fingered lizard. His son was a zoologist who created the first vivarium for reptiles.

Dumeril’s boa similar-looking snakes

Like all snakes, the Dumeril’s boa is reminiscent of certain other snake species. These snakes have an intricate and cryptic pattern which blends well with the forest floor.

It makes great camouflage not only from predators but also from the prey they ambush. Beside other ground boa species, here are two that I find similar to the Dumeril’s boa.

Gaboon viper

The Gaboon viper is a venomous snake from neighboring Africa. It’s another ground-dwelling ambush predator. Their cryptic patterning is like that of the Dumeril’s boa and used as camouflage. The triangular head of the Dumeril’s boa also gives it a venomous appearance.

Of course, the Dumeril’s boa is nonvenomous and completely harmless. The Gaboon viper is a very dangerous snake. Human fatalities have occurred including one that received much publicity.

Gaboon vipers are fairly easy to get through venomous snake dealers. While they seem sluggish and calm, don’t be fooled by their demeanor. These snakes lash out without warning delivering a deadly bite.

It’s best to leave venomous snake keeping and handling to those properly trained. Closely related to rhino vipers, and puff adders, the Gaboon viper may be desirable to keep but comes with the risk of serious injury and possibly death.  Dying from a snake bite is not an easy way to go.

A large female Colombian boa constrictor.
A large female Colombian boa constrictor.

Boa Constrictor

The common boa constrictors of central and South America also share similarities to the Dumeril’s boa. While the coloring and patterns differ, their body structure is close. While Madagascar is a long way off from South America, at one time these landmasses must have met.

Eventually, the isolated Dumeril’s boa on the island of Madagascar evolved into the snake we have today. Nevertheless, Dumeril’s boas and boa constrictors cannot be cross-bred. Even if it were possible, I would discourage doing so.

The South and Central American boa constrictors come in several phases depending on their localities. While Colombian boas and several species of Central American dwarf boa are common in the pet trade, Peruvian, Guyana, and Suriname localities tend to fetch higher prices based on their obscurity and extremely clean patterns. Guyana and Suriname boa constrictors are still imported while others such as the Argentine are heavily restricted.

Boa constrictors as pets

Boa constrictors tend to make good pets due to their docile and even temperament. While they don’t get as large as other giants including the reticulated, Burmese, African rock python and anaconda, certain phases reach ten feet in length. Females, in particular, are larger than males. These larger versions include the Colombian and Argentine boas.

That’s still a pretty big snake so it’s important to take a few things into consideration before buying one. First, you must provide an enclosure large enough to house your boa as an adult. Then, you have to take their lifespan into consideration. It might surpass 25 years. It’s sometimes more advisable to buy one of the dwarf species, like the Hog island boa when obtaining the proper caging requirements are problematic.

I’ve kept many boa constrictors over the years, particularly the Colombian variety. I should also note that cleaning up after such large snakes isn’t easy. They leave copious amounts of waste when they pass a meal often leading to cleaning the entire enclosure.

After completing the task, the snake needs a bath due to laying in its waste.  The cleanup time from a ten-foot Colombian boa I once kept took between 45 to 60 minutes to complete. It always occurred at night right before I went to bed causing me to have to take another shower. These large snakes are beautiful and make great pets, but they’re also a handful. It’s best to know what you’re in for before committing.

Conclusion

Although I’m biased in saying this, the Dumeril’s boa is a really wonderful snake. Besides its natural beauty, they’re one of, if not the most docile of the boa family. Remember, these snakes get stressed a bit easier than other boas. Once they find their groove, they feed readily once fully acclimated.

Note that moving adult Dumeril’s boas to a new home may also cause them to stop feeding for a period of time. As long as you meet their necessary needs and they’re not being over-handled before getting a chance to settle in, they should start feeding for you within a month. Just have patience. These are generally heavy-bodied snakes and can go a while without eating. Give new Dumeril’s boas recently added to your collection some time and space and everything will be okay.

I love my Dumeril’s boas. What’s your experience with them? Do you have any valuable advice not included in this article? Feel free to leave your comments below! 

Dumeril’s Boa as Pets

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