Baby boas booming
On the 2nd December 2013, in the opening days of our first ever winter expedition to Laguna del Tigre, a boa constrictor was found at the bottom of the stairs leading to the volunteer dorms at Las Guacamayas. It was about the same length as the two we had found previously in November, and along with them was one of the new borns of 2013. This individual however was very thin, you could see the vertebrae and ribs under the skin, and was very weak.
We measured, weighed and marked this young female (550 mm in length and 40.6g). The next day we released her in the same place we had found her the night before. We all hoped that she would find some food soon.
Just 18 days later, on the 20th December, another young boa was found 1.5m up in a tree on the side of the path that runs behind the office and lab at Las Guacamayas. We could tell from her markings that she was same underweight female boa we had found a few weeks before.Only this time she looked in much better condition than before, we took a few more photographs and let her be.
Over the next week or so she was seen multiple times in different positions in the same line of trees. Then on the 29th December, the day before the end of the expedition, she was seen hanging from a thin branch by her tail. The rest of her body hung down and was wrapped around what appeared to be a female red-capped manakin that she was eating.
We watched her from a distance so as not to disturb her and marvelled at how strong she was and how she was able to move around to help her move the body of the bird she was eating into her mouth.
She continued to eat as we watched in awe for about 30 minutes. Then, as she moved her coils to adjust her position, she ended up hanging straight down from the branch with just a few centimetres of her tail coiled round a small stem on the branch – it was the only part of her body that was still holding on and keeping her from falling to the ground.. She was exhausted and unable to lift the weight of her body and the bird (that was still hanging from her mouth) back up into a secure position. After a few minutes like this she lost her grip and fell with a thump to the ground.
We gasped with shock and hoped she had not hurt herself in the fall. Upon a closer inspection she seemed to be ok, but our next concern was that she might abandon her meal. We left her alone and asked the workers at the station to avoid using that path so she wouldn’t be disturbed.
We went back to the lab to work with some other snakes that we had caught the night before. Every 15 minutes or so one of us went to check to see how she was doing and after a few checks, she was eating enthusiastically. We all breathed a sigh of relief and went back to work. Later that afternoon we checked again and she was nowhere to be seen.
I hope we will see her again over the next few weeks and months and with any luck she will stay around the station grounds until adulthood. Only time will tell…