05/21/12 A STORY ABOUT A BOA PART 2
After the decision to buy the Black Boa was made, Jeff kindly offered to take photos of it and the parents, and a few of its siblings. Jeff had assured me that the Boa looked exactly the same as I remembered her. As promised, a week later an envelope showed up in our post box, and in it was a really nice card, and photos of the snakes. When I showed the photos to Dave he was blown away. He had not been at the Arlington show, so he was strictly relying on my assessment of the animal and the potential of the project.
His enthusiasm about the snake, really added to my resolution to see this project through. Dave has been amazingly supportive of my continuing passion for the snakes. His support has enabled us to really look forward and take chances, which is why we have had the ability to continue doing future oriented projects. It sounds easy, but anyone who has done something like this realizes that it is money, time, and energy, that must be committed sometimes for five or more years until you see anything from it, and that is if you see anything from it. The fact of the matter is the number one motivator for me is the ability to work with the animals and the challenge to do the right thing by the project.
Right before Thanksgiving I met with Jeff and got the Boas. We really had a great time and had a nice lunch together talking on all manner of subjects. We realized that all of us loved fishing as a hobby, and planned that one day we might get together and go fishing together! As I drove home with the Boas, I knew I had a lot of work and planning to do.
I had planned everything out about who was going where, so when I returned home I just needed to get them situated and see what we had. First I looked at the parents. These were sizeable snakes. Definitely they were going individually in my ARS racks! Each animal had a styro fish box as a hide box, brown paper as substrate, and two 16 oz water bowls placed right in front of the hide box, so all they had to do was put their head out of the door of the box look down and get a drink.
There is one thing that came to mind when I looked at this pair of adult snakes. They looked ancient! If these Boas were 20 plus years old it wouldn’t surprise me! I needed to breed these things asap because they were not getting any younger!
In terms of overall condition for breeding their body tone was perfect, lean and long. The female needed a bit more weight, the male was perfect. My plan was to feed the heck out of the female especially, and feed the male on a regular schedule.
The female Black Boa was immaculate, flawless, insane looking. If you are a Boa person at one time or another you dreamt of a solid Black Boa. I was living this dream and hopefully someday a lot of other Boa lovers will be able to also!
The siblings to the Black Boa, were about 1/3 her size because Jeff had focused on her, but they actually would have been the same size if I would have been raising them, so I was also pleased how they looked, they were flawless as well. Jeff had done a great job raising these snakes over the past two years. The siblings of course could be theoretical possible hets if the Black Boa was a recessive trait. If she was a random dominant mutation then they were nice normal Boas. Only breeding the parents, the Black female, and, the siblings would unravel that information, so it was time for me to get to work answering all those questions.
The next day gave me a chance to see where I was at in regards to attempting to accomplish my first task, breeding the parents. The Black female was obviously not even in contention for breeding this year because she was not old enough or big enough. I offered the adults small rats, which they immediately took. As the female was eating her first meal I quickly got the ultrasound to see if she even had follicles and if she did where they were at. As I put the probe on her side and looked over at the machine I saw not only did she have follicles, but they were at the perfect size for introducing the male 15-17mm!
Jeff said the pair had not been together he had been keeping them separately. The moment I saw the ultrasound, I decided I’m going for it, we are going to try to strike while the iron is hot, before they even realize they are in completely new surroundings. As any expert Boa breeder will tell you, transitioning adult Boas to a new environment is extremely difficult in terms of future reproductive success. I knew that this might be my best shot at getting babies out of this pair.
I decided to continue feeding the female just one small rat at a time until she went opaque going into a shed cycle. At that time I would introduce the male and see what he would do.
On November 11, 2011, the female shed and fed, the male had been with her since she was opaque prior to that shed. I did not disturb them so I wasn’t actually sure whether they were doing anything or not. On December 2nd, I came in and opened the drawer and found them breeding. Naturally I gently closed the drawer, silently as possible backed away, and I was just over the moon. If I could just get some babies from this pair, I didn’t know what I would get, but at least I had a bigger pool of animals to work with for the project. On December 9th, I offered both animals rats, the female nailed one, the male did not. Another confirmation that he was in for the right reason and again my excitement level rose.
Over the next month the female ate and started looking bigger, but I did not ultrasound her again. Just looking at her was enough to know things were progressing and her follicles were growing. On January 15, 2012 she ovulated. There was no going back now. Basically the story was written, it was either going to result in babies or slugs, but she was definitely having something. She still looked thin to me and it was hard to envision this resulting in good babies. I just could not tell if this was going to fly or not. To add to the stress my ultrasound machine died. Now I really couldn’t even put myself out of my misery, by ultrasounding her to see if she had slugs, and get over the disappointment quickly!
The female shed on February 3rd, and took her usual rat. Now I started to space out her meals to every 10-14 days, one small rat each time. Thirty days before her due date I would stop feeding her until she theoretically had her babies or had slugs. I projected her due date based on the classic Jeff Ronne article in Reptiles magazine, 124 days past her ovulation date. I noted May 17, 2012 as her due date.
The wait was of course filled with a million things going on in our lives, many of which had nothing to do with Boas!
But there were a lot of things that definitely had to do with Boas, the legislation and listing went through and was announced January 23rd, 2012, but thankfully did not have Boas on the Injurious species list. But a mere three weeks after that was announced, congressional action was initiated to put them back on the list. This is not the time or the place, but you can be assured all of that will be written about at the appropriate time. I just had to forget about that and I resolved to just focus on my work and do my job.
On May 14th, the female had a large defecation and when I saw her she looked thin. I told Dave, don’t get too excited. At one point I wasn’t sure she just didn’t have a handful of slugs and that was going to be the end of it. Of course I secretly hoped, well maybe she was just going to have 5 or 6 babies, I’d be happy with anything at this point. The good news was she hadn’t spit out slugs then and there, which was a good sign and so I became a little more hopeful. The 15th she became restless and started really burrowing through her aspen. I told Dave it looks like it is going to maybe be tonight, two days shy of her due date, not too bad. The morning of the 16th, I ran down at about 6:00 am and opened the drawer. There she was just laying there absolutely like she had not a thing to do that day. Now I swung in the direction of “oh what if she keeps whatever is in there, in there!” I closed the drawer, tried to snap myself out of it and didn’t go back in the room for the rest of the day.
On May 17th, the due date I had written down, I once again got up early and carefully pulled out her drawer. There they were, babies, and not just a few! I could not have been more surprised, I have no idea where she kept these things. There is no way I expected a litter like this! I looked at them and saw some really dark babies. I’m not sure I have seen babies this dark in terms of any Colombians I have ever had born. First thing first, I gave the female a well deserved rat, and removed her from the enclosure. Now I could see what was there in terms of number of babies and what they really looked like.
I scooped up an astonishing number of little snakes, twenty babies! Washed them off and put them in their enclosures in a little bit of warm water. I sexed them on the spot! Ten males and ten females. Can’t beat that!
Here are the first pics. Part 3 will be the discussion of where we are in the project, what we have learned or not learned, and what the next plan of action is in this really cool project!
Mom and babies May 17, 2012
These are cool!