Scientific name: Epicrates monensis granti
Common name: Virgin Island Tree Boa or Virgin Island Boa
Description: This is a smallish snake from 2 to 4 feet in length from nose to vent. The body is slender; these snakes weigh only between 200 – 300 grams (about half a pound) on average. The Virgin Island tree boa has a light brown back covered with dark brown splotches. The underside is cream-colored, speckled with grayish dots. Young immature snakes are light gray with darker blotches and attain their adult coloration by the time they reach maturity at 3 years of age.
Range: These snakes are found only on the Virgin Islands, specifically Culebra, St. Thomas, and Tortola and on several of the surrounding scattered cays. There is also a small population living on the southeastern tip of Puerto Rico.
Habitat: The Virgin Island tree boa inhabits dry forests and coastal scrub. They are arboreal and nocturnal, spending the nights hunting for prey in the trees. During the day they sleep in crevices in the rocks, cavities in the forest floor or sometimes in abandoned termite mounds.
Behavior: Virgin Island tree boas mostly eat small lizards such as anoles, but will also eat mice, eggs, and small birds. They are constrictors and will squeeze their prey until it is dead and then eat it head first. Virgin Island tree boas are nocturnal and catch their prey while it sleeps. These snakes are non-venomous.
Reproduction and rearing: Courtship in this species happens in the early spring anytime between February and May. Gestation lasts about 150 days and the young are born live, not in eggs. They are completely independent from birth and receive no parental care. A female will give birth to 2 – 10 young. Females reproduce every other year. Sexual maturation occurs at about 3 years of age for both sexes.
Predators: These small snakes are easy prey for feral cats, mongoose and rats.
Lifespan: In captivity Virgin Island tree boas can live up to 30 years. They live for 10 – 20 years in the wild.
Conservation Status: The Virgin Island tree boa is one of the rarest boas in the world. The IUCN Redlist lists Epicrates monensis granti as an Endangered species due to the decline of mature individuals and the fact that their populations are severely fragmented. Habitat destruction is the main cause of their decline, mostly due to housing and commercial development. Agricultural land use is responsible for declines on the island of Culebra.
References: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/7829/12853577; https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?sId=3247; https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/fact-sheet/virgin-islands-tree-boa-english.pdf; https://www.nczoo.org/conservation/international/securing-better-future-virgin-island-tree-boa.