Snake Aggression - New Behavior

Asked January 25, 2020, 4:30 PM EST

I have a 6 ft red tailed boa that has been very gentle and sweet since I got him (about 9 months ago). The previous owners had many snakes, dogs, and children who they said this snake had always been calm around. They said they also used him as a “show and tell” snake for some elementary school classes. I fed him 5 days ago and now he’s pooped & I need to clean it up! I started getting ready like normal, removing the heat lamp and putting my gloves on, etc. While I was standing there putting my gloves on he struck at me multiple times, even though I haven’t even stuck my hand in the tank or removed the lid yet! I’ve backed away from the tank and now he’s sitting there half under his hidey rock looking very tense. This is my first snake, but I’ve had animals all my life. I know usually if they act out of character like this something is usually wrong, but I’m not sure where to start with a snake! Could he be uncomfortable? In pain? How can I get him out without him biting me?

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1 Response

Thank you for your question. If you fed the snake in its tank, then there is a possibility the snake has associated any activity on your part around its tank as a prelude to getting fed, and that is why it struck at you when you were removing the heat lamp in preparation to clean the tank.

Another possibility is a health-related issue that is making your snake uncomfortable, causing it pain, etc. Only a reptile veterinarian will be able to determine if your snake has a health issue. I recommend you contact a local vet experienced in reptile care, and have your snake examined. If there are no health issues, then I recommend you feed your boa in a separate container.

Here is a care sheet published by Reptiles magazine that describes habitat needs that you may find helpful in providing an appropriate environment for your snake:

I hope this information helps, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.