|In the Caroni Swamp, Trinidad|
Adults grow to an average of 5 and 6.5 feet (1.5-2 m) in length. This species exhibits an immense variety of colors and patterns. The basic color can be anywhere from black, brown, or gray, to any shade of red, orange, yellow, or many colors in between. Some are totally patternless, while others may be speckled, banded, or saddled with rhomboid or chevron shapes. Some reds will have yellow patterns, some yellows red or orange patterns. Generally, there are two color 'phases' that are genetically inherited, but are not ontogenic as with the emerald tree boa,C. caninus and the green tree python, Morelia viridis. The 'garden phase' refers to boas with drab coloration, mostly brown or olive, with varied patterning, while the 'colored phase' refers to animals with combinations of red, orange, and yellow coloring.
Found in South America in southern Colombia east of the Andes, southern Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Amazonian Brazil, Costa Rica Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. The type locality given is "America."
Typically found below 300 m elevation.
These animals are notorious for being very aggressive, although as with all snakes this varies. These animals also have very long needle-like teeth which makes their bite quite painful. However these snakes tend to give some warning of being inclined to bite, and will usually give fairly gentle bites (which can still draw blood) unless they are given reason to give a full strike.
A more preliminary attempt to dissuade a potential attacker, a tree boa will whip its tail and release a foul smelling liquid that is difficult to remove. This is a similar tactic seen in different animals from skunks to insects.
The aggressiveness is in part due to the species feeding cycle. The snakes are night time hunters, so they are in hunting mode when they are most likely to be handled by an owner. Being in a hunting mood and being that an owners hands are usually nice, hot and prey sized (Amazon Boas hunt mainly using their heat sensors) - people do get bitten, although as with most snakes, the animal will soon realize their mistake and let go, since they can recognize the smell of their owner. It is uncommon for a constrictor snake that knows the person handling it to strike and constrict the person, as they would a food item, unless the snake is very agitated.
These snakes are quite slim and don't have the mass of some of their other constrictor cousins such as the terrestrial Python, Boa and Rat/Corn snake species. Prospective owners however should be advised that while the snake is quite lightweight and gracile in comparison to some other species, it in no way means the Amazon Tree Boa is a weakling. It is more than capable of resisting being moved by both using its strength to anchor itself to the local surroundings, and if agitated striking to defend itself. Male snakes also have spurs under their tail by the vent (the bony remainder of the hips and back legs) and will flail their bodies to bring these into play. The spurs are also used to assist in mating.
A good tip to protect oneself from bites is to wear gloves of some description over the hands, this can shield the heat of the hands and therefore the snake is less likely to strike since it doesn't have a hot target to aim for.