Facts, Identification & Control
Charina umbratica or Charina bottae
The rubber boa gets its scientific name from the Greek word for graceful or delightful, and its common name from the appearance of its skin. It is one of only two types of boas native to the United States – the rosy boa, Lichanura trivirgata, being the other. Restricted in distribution to the western United States, the genus Charina is represented by two species, the Southern rubber boa, Charina umbratica, and the Northern rubber boa, Charina bottae. Many scientists debate whether the Southern rubber boa should only be classified as a subspecies of the Northern rubber boa.
The rubber boa is a stout snake with small, smooth, mostly shiny scales and a wrinkled or loose appearance to the skin, which gives it its common name. Both species, the Northern and Southern rubber boas, have similar colorations with adults appearing light tan to dark brown or black body with a light tan belly. The rubber boa is the smaller of the boa species with adults reaching a length of just under three feet. Found in a variety of habitats, from grasslands to forests, the rubber boa is also capable of surviving in higher mountain elevations. Unlike most other boas, the rubber boa does not do well in a hot, dry climate, instead preferring a warm, moist habitat. It also is unique that the rubber boa remains active in temperatures often thought of as too cold for most reptiles. However, during the much cooler winter months, the rubber boa will find a protected hide-a-way or burrow to hibernate until warmer spring temperatures return.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
After emerging from hibernation in the early spring, the rubber boa snake seeks out mates to reproduce, giving birth to up to nine young. Females give birth to live young that are almost nine inches in length. The young snakes look very similar to their adult counterparts, but tend to be more vibrant and colorful. Both the young and adult snakes feed on a variety of small mammals, lizards and amphibians.
The rubber boa is a non-venomous snake. When threatened, it buries its head and coils the remaining portion of its body into a ball, leaving only the tail, which looks like a head, exposed. The rubber boa snake also emits an overpowering musk odor to further ward off potential enemies. These defensive tactics help the snake evade most predators with little more than damage to its tail. Due to its docile behavior, the rubber boa is often used to help people overcome their fear of snakes.