Citing a rapid increase in the local population of boa constrictors, the Forestry Department has said that more of the creatures may show up in populated areas.
On Wednesday, the department was summoned to remove a six foot long boa from the Water and Sewerage Company Inc (WASCO) property at Union.
Acting Chief Forestry Officer, Alfred Prospere, explained that the boa and the fer de lance can travel long distances via water, specially during periods of heavy rain when rivers become swollen.
“Any of these reptiles can cling on to a piece of wood – they would travel down the river and get on to land,” Prospere told St Lucia Times.
Prospere explained that the boa constrictor population here has increased rapidly because it is on the protected list of species and it is against the law to kill the reptile.
But he said the fer de lance, which is venomous, is not.
The Forestry official said as a result of the expanding population of boas, competition for food arises and the creatures move to other areas, resulting in increased sightings.
“The issue we have in Saint Lucia is that people have problems differentiating between the boa constrictor and the fer de lance,” he stated.
The Forestry Department official stated that the fer de lance is a very different reptile to the boa.
He said the boa would remain in a residential area unperturbed by the presence of people and noises, once it continues to obtain food.
Nevertheless, he explained that if the boa is challenged and under threat, it will move.
But Prospere said the fer de lance on the other hand, would move away from an area where there is human activity or noise.
“What I would like the public to do is if there is any sighting of a reptile, whether it is a boa or a fer de lance, to stay away, identify the location and do not disturb it – because if you disturb it it may move to another area which would make it difficult for us to see it when we get there.”
Prospere said snake sightings should be reported to the Forestry Department.
He described the boa as a ‘friendly snake’.
“It is a friendly snake because it would never attack you. So you can sit next to a boa and the boa will do you nothing – unlike a fer de lance; once you disturb it or you get very close to it, it will defend itself by striking you. The boa is the opposite, it will not attack you in any way except if you try to disturb it. It may strike at you in an attempt to defend itself,” the Acting Chief Forestry Officer told St Lucia Times.
“It has no venom but it has teeth that are very sharp,” Prospere said, adding that a boa bite on a part of the body like one’s finger, can result in a series of cuts, if the victim tried to pull the hand away.
On the other hand, he stated that the bite of the fer de lance is venomous and can kill.
Prospere explained that the fer de lance and the boa constrictor are almost similar.
“What makes them different is the head. For example, the fer de lance head is more rectangular as compared with the boa constrictor’s head. The boa constrictor’s head is shaped like the head of a mongrel dog and has what looks like skin with a wide variety of colours as against the fer de lance which looks more like a body with scales that can be removed,” he said.