04/14/2015 10:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

People and Other Animals: Bay Area Boa

2015-04-13-1428942425-1873735-rubberboa1.JPGLike it or not (and sadly most people do not), we all know there are snakes here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The most commonly spotted species are probably the Coast Garter Snake, Pacific Gopher Snake, Striped Racer, and Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. But Boa Constrictors...?

In addition to the more common than you'd like to think escaped (or released) pet Boa Constrictor rescued by one of the Animal Rescue Officers of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, yes indeed we also have a native boa. The Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) may be far smaller than what most of us think of when we think of boas, but our little native is indeed a member of the boa family.

Rubber Boas are considered an especially mellow snake. There are reports of these animals being used, as such, to help people get over their fear of snakes. Crepuscular (active during dawn and dusk), shy and secretive, well camouflaged (a solid dull brown body), spotting a Rubber Boa in the wild is no easy task.

So you can imagine my excitement (or maybe you can't) when on a Sunday morning hike up San Bruno Mountain, Carolyn called a halt by throwing her arm across my chest and pointing down a few feet ahead of us on the trail. My wife has a truly incredible ability to spot wildlife, often sooner than a biologist guide when we've traveled internationally, but her focus is more about birds and mammals then reptiles. It took a second for me to tell her just who she'd found, and how rare that is.2015-04-13-1428942469-9988639-rubberboa2.JPG

Native to the western United States, ranging as far north as British Columbia (making them the most northern of the 43 or so species of boa), newborn babies (all boas are born live, unlike pythons who hatch from eggs incubated by their mothers) start life at about 7 inches, and an especially large adult may approach 30 inches.

The iPhone pictures aren't great, but it is evidence. Other than pickled in museums, stuck in small terraria at zoos and photos in books, this is my first Rubber Boa in the wild. A lovely 14 inch or so female, probably a year or two old, we spent a most enjoyable few minutes in her company before moving her off the trail into deep bush. What a great way to start a week!