Rubber Boa

Rubber Boa
Coastal Rubber Boa
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Boidae
Subfamily: Erycinae
Genus: Charina
Species: C. bottae
Binomial name
Charina bottae
(Blainville, 1835)

The Rubber Boa is a snake in the family Boidae that is native to the Western United States.



The Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) is a snake in the family Boidae and genus Charina. The name Charina is from the Greek for graceful or delightful, and the name bottae honors Dr. Paolo E. Botta, an Italian ship's surgeon, explorer and naturalist. The Boidae family consists of the nonvenomous snakes commonly called boas and consists of 43 species. The genus Charina consists of four species, three of which are found in North America, and one species found in Africa. It is sometimes also known as the Coastal Rubber Boa or the Northern Rubber Boa and is not to be confused with the Southern Rubber Boa (Charina umbratica). There is debate on whether the Southern Rubber Boa should be a separate species or a subspecies (Charina bottae umbratica). The only other boa species found in the United States is the Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata).


Rubber Boas are one of the smaller boa species, adults can be anywhere from 15 to 33 inches (840 mm) long; and newborns are typically 7.5 to 9 inches (230 mm) long. The common name is derived from their skin which is often loose and wrinkled and consists of small scales that are smooth and shiny, these characteristics give the snakes a rubber like look and texture. Colors are typically tan to dark brown with a lighter ventral surface but sometimes olive-green, yellow, or orange. Newborns often appear pink and slightly transparent but darken with age. Rubber boas have small eyes with vertically elliptical pupils and short blunt heads that are no wider than the body. One of the most identifiable characteristics of Rubber Boas is their short blunt tails that closely resemble the shape of their head. Rubber Boas appear quite different visually than any other species that share the same range (except maybe for the Southern Rubber Boa) and thus are usually easy to identify.


Rubber Boas are the most northerly of boa species. The distribution of Rubber Boas covers a large portion of the western United States, stretching from the Pacific Coast east to western Utah and Montana, as far south as the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles in California, and as far north as southern British Columbia. There have also been rare sightings in Colorado and Alberta in addition to the states/provinces that they are known to thrive in (California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia).


Rubber Boas have been known to inhabit a wide variety of habitat types from grassland, meadows and chaparral to deciduous and conifer forests, to high alpine settings. They can be found at elevations anywhere from sea level to over 10,000 feet (3,000 m). They are not as tolerant of higher temperatures as other snake species and cannot inhabit areas that are too hot and dry, but can live in areas that are surprisingly cold, especially for a snake. Rubber Boas also spend a large amount of time under shelter (rocks, logs, leaf litter, burrows, etc.) and thus must live in habitats that can provide this, as well as adequate warmth, moisture, and prey. It is also thought that Rubber Boas maintain a relatively small home range as many individuals are often captured in the same vicinity year after year, although individuals may occasionally migrate due to competition, lack of prey, or other pressures.


Characteristics of Rubber Boas behavior also set them apart from other snakes. Rubber Boas are considered one of the most docile of the boa species and are often used to help people overcome their fear of snakes [1] . Rubber Boas are known to never strike at or bite a human under any circumstances but will release a potent musk from their vent if they feel threatened. They are primarily nocturnal and likely crepuscular (active during dawn and dusk) which partially contributes to how rarely they are encountered. Because of the temperate regions they inhabit Rubber Boas hibernate during the winter months in underground dens Hunting – Rubber Boas primarily feed on young mammals such as shrews, voles, mice, etc. When nestling mammals are encountered they will try to consume the entire litter if possible and fend off the mother with their tail, this is why individuals will often have extensive scarring on their tails. Rubber Boas have also been known to prey on snake eggs, lizard eggs, lizards, young birds, young bats, and there have even been instances of them eating other snakes. Predation – Rubber Boas can be preyed upon by almost any reasonably sized predator in their habitat. When threatened, Rubber Boas will curl into a ball, bury their head inside, and expose their tail to mimic their head. While this is thought to be a primary defense technique against predators, it is doubtful that this behavior is effective in most cases being that many predators are too large (raptors, coyotes, raccoons, cats, etc.). In reality the best defense of Rubber Boas is their secretive nature.


Rubber Boas are ovoviviparous (give birth to live young) and can have up to 9 young per year, but many females will only reproduce every four years. Mating occurs shortly after reemergence from hibernation in the spring and young are born anywhere from August to November later that year.[2]


The Southern Rubber Boa is found only in a few disjunct areas of California.

The Rubber Boa is a primitive snake compared to its much larger relatives native to Latin America, which include the Boa Constrictor, Emerald Tree Boa, and Green Anaconda. The Rubber Boa has retained the club-like tail of its Erycine ancestors.

An adult Rubber Boa
A young Rubber Boa in Oregon, shown with a US nickel for size comparison.

It is an extremely adaptable snake. It is a good climber, burrower, and even swimmer.

The Rubber Boa has an established population around Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia.[3]

Notes and references

3 - Hoyer, R. F. 1974. Description of a rubber boa (Chrina bottae) population from western Oregon. Herpetologica. 30:275-283

4 - Hoyer, R. F. and Stewart, G. R. 2000. Biology of the Rubber Boa (Charina bottae), with Emphasis on C. b. umbratica. Part I: Capture, Size, Sexual Dimorphism, and Reproduction. Journal of Herpetology. 34:248-354

5- Personal interviews with Richard Hoyer.

6 - Stebbins, R. C. 1955. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 2nd ed. Houghton, Mifflin, Boston.

7- Hoyer, R. F. and Stewart, G. R. 2000. Biology of the Rubber Boa (Chrina bottae), with Emphasis on C. b. umbratica. Part II: Diet, Antagonists, and Predators. Journal of Herpetology. 34:354-360

8 Klauber, L. M. 1943. The subspecies of the rubber boa, Charina. Trans. San Diego Soc. Natur. Hist. 10:83-90

9 - Nussbaum, R. and Hoyer, R. F. 1974. Geographic Variation and the Validity of Subspecies in the Rubber Boa, Charina bottae. Northwest Science. 48:219-229

10 - Personal observation in Spring of 2001 from one search of 15 minutes. 12 boas found in an area of .6 hectare, or 1.5 acres (6,100 m2). Note: weather was unfaborable for finding Rubber Boas, yet a population of 8 per acre was found in this one short search! Density could be higher, but this represents minimimum density at a given point in time in good habitat.

11- Rodrigues-Robles, J. A., Stewart, G. R., Papenfuss, T. J. 2001. Mitochondrial DNA Based Phylogeography of North American Rubber Boas, Charina bottae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Vol. 18 No. 2 pp. 227–237.

12- Hoyer R. 2008. All About The Rubber Boa Charina bottae.

13- 2009. Charina bottae - Northern Rubber Boa. California Herps.

14- 2009. Rubber Boa. The Reptiles of British Columbia.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • rubber boa — noun boa of grasslands and woodlands of western North America; looks and feels like rubber with tail and head of similar shape • Syn: ↑tow headed snake, ↑Charina bottae • Hypernyms: ↑boa • Member Holonyms: ↑Charina, ↑genus Charina …   Useful english dictionary

  • rubber boa — noun a type of American snake, Charina bottae …   Wiktionary

  • boa — /boh euh/, n., pl. boas. 1. any of several nonvenomous, chiefly tropical constrictors of the family Boidae, having vestigial hind limbs at the base of the tail. 2. a scarf or stole of feathers, fur, or fabric. [1350 1400; ME < L: water adder] * * …   Universalium

  • rubber snake — noun see rubber boa …   Useful english dictionary

  • Rosy boa — Conservation status Least Concern (IUCN 3.1) …   Wikipedia

  • Charina — Rubber boa, C. bottae Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia Phylum …   Wikipedia

  • List of erycine species and subspecies — Taxobox name = Erycinae image caption = Javelin sand boa, E. jaculus regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata subphylum = Vertebrata classis = Reptilia ordo = Squamata subordo = Serpentes familia = Boidae subfamilia = Erycinae subfamilia authority =… …   Wikipedia

  • List of snakes by common name — This is a list of extant snakes, given by their common names. Note that the snakes are grouped by name, and in some cases the grouping may have no scientific basis. A *Adder **Berg adder **Common adder **Deaf adder **Death adder **Desert death… …   Wikipedia

  • Charina bottae — noun boa of grasslands and woodlands of western North America; looks and feels like rubber with tail and head of similar shape • Syn: ↑rubber boa, ↑tow headed snake • Hypernyms: ↑boa • Member Holonyms: ↑Charina, ↑genus Charina …   Useful english dictionary

  • tow-headed snake — noun boa of grasslands and woodlands of western North America; looks and feels like rubber with tail and head of similar shape • Syn: ↑rubber boa, ↑Charina bottae • Hypernyms: ↑boa • Member Holonyms: ↑Charina, ↑genus Charina …   Useful english dictionary

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