Snakes are complex animals that have unique ways of capturing and eating their prey. Although it is usually a great assumption that most snakes are venomous, only 20% of the snake population capture their prey using venom.
Large non-venomous snakes apply other methods, such as constriction.
Killing prey through constriction involves the snake coiling their muscular bodies around their target, and squeezing them to inhibit blood flow inside the prey’s body, leading to suffocation. The constrictor category involves two main species, namely the Boas and the Pythons.
Boas are non-venomous species located in Madagascar, Central America, Pacific Islands, and Papua, while Pythons are non-venomous species found in Asia, Australia, and Africa.
Examples of Constrictor Snakes
The anaconda is a member of the Boa family and is the largest snake in the world. Anacondas reside close to water bodies such as swamps, slow-moving streams, and marshes of the Orinoco basins in South America and the Amazon. They are nonvenomous constrictors, and they coil their muscular bodies around their prey, squeezing it hard until it asphyxiates.
These types of snakes are quick and stealthy in water but slow on land. Notably, their nasal passage and eyes are on top of their heads, which allows them to almost completely submerge themselves in water as they wait for their prey. Anaconda’s jaws are attached by stretchy ligaments allowing them to swallow the prey whole despite the prey’s size.
2. Ball Python
Ball pythons are categorized among the smallest of all the pythons and only mature to about three or four feet long. They are among the common pet snakes due to their small size as they are relatively easy to care for and maintain. ‘Bal’ from ball python comes from its ability to coil itself completely into a ball as a defense mechanism when faced with a threat.
The ball pythons live along the forest edges or in the dry grasses of the Central and North African savannas. Just like other members of the python family, ball pythons capture their prey by coiling around them and squeezing them until the prey passes out and dies from suffocation. After, the snake swallows the prey whole. Due to its size, the ball python preys on small animals, such as rodents.
3. Blood Python
The blood python is a medium-sized nonvenomous snake found in Thailand, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula. Typically, these snake species are found in palm plantations, tropical swamps, marshes, tropical forests, and the outlying islands of the Malaysian peninsula and eastern Sumatra. As a result, they are known by other names such as Malaysian blood python, red short-tailed python, Brongersma’s short-tailed python, red blood python, or Sumatran blood python.
A mature blood python grows to 5-8 feet in length and is usually heavily built with muscles. These snakes prey on small animals like rats, mice, and chipmunks. They occasionally feed on birds as well. As they are nonvenomous, they subdue their prey by constricting them to death.
4. Boa Constrictor
Boa constrictors are powerful, making them stealthy hunters. Their hunting technique generally involves ambushing the prey which includes monkeys, wild pigs, rats, and birds then using their powerful muscles to constrict them to death. Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, and after a huge meal, it might go for weeks without hunting.
The general appearance of a boa constrictor is that they are cream, brown, or grey with brown and red patterns. The patterns are prominent near the tail, as seen in the red-tailed boa. Coloring is essential for the boa constrictors since it is an effective camouflage tool in the forests and jungles of Central and South America, where they are mainly found due to the humidity of the rainforests.
5. Calabar Python
The Calabar Python is actually from the Boa family but was considered a python until 1993. The snake is found in the moist rainforests of Central and West Africa but can also be found as far as Lake Kivu in the east. The skin of a Calabar Python is fifteen times thicker and harder to pierce than the average snake due to the many layers of collagen fibers making up its skin.
This type of snake is adapted to burrowing, and its body is cylindrical with a blunt tail and equally blunt head. Its head is covered with big shields that are used for protection and burrowing purposes. As with all pythons, the Calabar is a constrictor and feeds on rodents, which it burrow out of their habitats.
6. Carpet Python
The carpet python also goes by other names, such as the carpet snake or the diamond python. This snake is mainly found in Indonesia, New Guinea, or Australia. Similar to the ball pythons, the carpet pythons do not have one specific color for their species and breed into various colored morphs.
Carpet Pythons reproduce by laying their eggs, and the mother snake coils around the eggs until hatching, but after hatching, the mother does not take the responsibility of taking care of the young ones. They are considered semi-arboreal snakes as they easily climb shrubs and trees but are spotted moving in open areas such as crossing roads and forest floors. They feed on prey relative to their own size, with smaller carpet pythons constricting and feeding on smaller prey.
7. Emerald Tree Boa
As the name suggests, Emerald tree boas are tree-dwelling species, spend most of their time in tree branches, and are rarely seen on the ground. They usually coil themselves around the branches waiting for their prey to get closer. The Emerald tree boas are similar to the green tree python having bright green color and a yellow underside.
Emerald Tree Boas consist of slower metabolism than most snakes, which gives them the ability to go for months without feeding. The natural habitat for these snakes is the South American rainforests, especially in Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname. These snakes have highly developed front teeth, which are bigger than any other nonvenomous snake species.
8. Garden Tree Boa
The Garden Tree Boa is also known as the Amazon Tree Boa and is a nonvenomous species located in South America. This snake exhibits a diverse variety of patterns and colors such that it can range from brown, gray, black to any shade of orange, yellow, or red. Some snakes are patternless, while others are banded, saddled, or speckled with chevron or rhomboid shapes.
The Garden tree boas are solitary arboreal creatures and spend most of their lives on top of the tree branches. They are active both during the day and at night. Hunting techniques for both duration are different since they use heat pits to sense their prey while hunting at night and use vision to hunt during the day.
9. Indian Python
The Indian Python is considered the third largest snake behind the anaconda and the reticulated python. While it is equivalent in size to the red-tailed boa, it can reach a length of 6.5 meters.
The average weight of an adult Indian python is between 70 to 120 pounds, but there are instances where cases of 200 pounds and more have been reported. The general color of the snake is beige, yellow, brown, or cream, with extremely dark markings ranging from black to dark brown.
These snakes come from the forests of Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and Nepal but can also be found in river valleys, scrubland, and rocky foothills. Apart from the mating season, the Indian python lives alone and often coils on the ground or draped over branches waiting to strike its prey. They hunt with a combination of chemical receptors and heat sensors to identify and pinpoint their target.
10. Mexican Burrowing Snake
This snake resembles members of the python family but is unrelated and instead belongs to the Loxocemidae family. The Mexican burrowing snake might be closely related to the pythons from the New Guinean/Australian region, but it is uncertain. They live in Central America, Pacific Ocean coasts, and Mexico.
The Mexican Burrowing Snake spends most of its life underground and has a solid and muscular body that assists in burrowing through the ground. The large scales on its head also assist the snake in burrowing through the sandy soil. The coloration is normally dark with blotches of white scales, but all pigment cells may disappear after shedding, leaving it white with only small dark blotches on its head.
11. Rainbow Boa
Its natural habitat is in the wild of South and Central America, but it is prominent in Suriname. A primarily terrestrial boa lives in humid woodland forests but can be found at times in open savannas. As the name suggests, Rainbow Boas are the most colorful species, especially after immediately shedding.
The tiny ridges on the scales of this snake act as prisms that refract light and create an effect that is observed as the rainbow. The Brazilian rainbow boas are reddish-brown or brown snakes consisting of three parallel black stripes on the top of the head and huge black rings at the back that produce the appearance of dorsal blotches.
12. Red-tailed Boa
The Red-tailed Boa is among the largest snakes in the world and most common among its family. It is native to the tropical forests of South and Central America since they prefer humid and warm environments. Notably, since they are capable swimmers, these snakes are found along streams and rivers.
Depending on the available prey and its location, Red-tailed boas can attain a length of anywhere from 3 to 13 feet. Also, they are heavy-bodied, and the largest to have been recorded reached up to 60 pounds. The scales are usually cream, gray, or brown in base color, and red spots are prominent around the tail.
13. Reticulated Python
This is the longest snake in the world with four feet longer than the Green Anaconda. One of the fascinating facts about the Reticulated python is that it does eat humans once threatened, but the reported attacks are few. The python’s color pattern is geometric and complex that involves many colors and markings depending on their location.
The Reticulated python is native to western Bangladesh, southeastern Asia, Indo-Pacific islands west of New Guinea, and southeastern Vietnam. They dominantly inhabit grassland forests, wetlands, and tropical rainforests. Also, they need an area near a water body for predation success and protection since water is a protective camouflage.
14. Rosy Boa
The name comes from the salmon or rosy coloration on its belly, and their patterns and color vary greatly depending on their location. These snakes originate from Baja California in Mexico and coastal southern California. The majority of the Rosy Boas do not have the underside coloration but instead consist of a series of dark orange spots.
Most of the Rosy boas have a lateral striping of two different colors, but some have a reticulated granite pattern. Experts can differentiate the snakes based on the pattern and coloration. For instance, around Morongo Valley, California, they are stripped with blue/grey with bright orange, but in Maricopa Mountains, they are striped with cream white and deep brown.
15. Rubber Boa
Rubber boas are native to North America and are one of the smaller members of the family. Its name comes from the nature of its skin that is often wrinkled and loose and consists of small scales that are shiny and smooth; these factors give the snake a rubber-like texture and look. The colors are tan to dark brown with a brighter ventral surface, sometimes yellow, orange, or olive green.
Newborns appear slightly transparent and pink but get to darken with age. They have small eyes and short blunt heads that are no wider than their general body. These snakes spend most of their time on the ground but can also climb trees, swim, and burrow in search of food.
16. Sand Boa
The Sand Boa lives in the dry grassland of Northeastern Africa and the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It burrows through loose soil and sand in search of nesting birds and small mammals. During the hot seasons, it resides in the caves of small animals and beneath stones while leaving only its head exposed.
Can A Constrictor Snake Kill a Human?
While it is relatively rare, constrictor snakes can attack and kill human beings, especially when threatened. Since 1978 research shows that in the United States, seventeen people have died from constrictor snake-related incidents.
For instance, in one such instance, an individual suffered a heart attack during a struggle with a constrictor python. In another case, a constrictor snake attacked kids that were sleeping and squeezed them to their demise.
The constricting snakes are far more numerous than the venomous snakes and are generally harmless to humans unless threatened. Their mode of killing the animal through constriction is very effective since they can monitor the prey’s heartbeat and won’t begin to eat it until it is certain that the animal is dead. Three main families are present in this category, namely pythons, boas, and Lampropeltis.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.