To most people, the word boa brings to mind a feathery scarf or a giant snake somewhere in the Amazon.
Salmon Arm is home to the rubber boa, a miniature version of the constrictor.
The rubber boa is native to B.C. and the western U.S. Its generic name is Charina, from the Greek for graceful or delightful.
Delighted describes Joyce Polley’s reaction when she saw part of a boa’s tail above ground and quickly grabbed the snake.
“I was gardening, I looked down and saw about three or four inches of the tail,” says the area resident who owns 50 acres of land near Branchflower Road. “It was sheer luck; one more second and I wouldn’t have got him.”
Polley says the adult rubber boas, which can be anywhere from 38 to 84 cm (1.25 to 2.76 ft) long, are normally just under the surface of the soil.
Their common name is derived from their skin which is often loose and wrinkled and consists of small scales that are smooth and shiny, giving the snakes a rubber-like look and texture.
Rubber boas are typically tan to dark brown on top with olive-green, yellow or orange undersides. They have small eyes and short blunt heads that are no wider than the body.
Rubber boas are considered one of the most docile of the boa species and are often used to help people overcome their fear of snakes.
One of the most identifiable characteristics of rubber boas is their short blunt tails that closely resemble the shape of their head.
Polley says the snakes prefer a diet of baby mice and use their tails to bat the mother out of the way while they dine in the mouse’s nest.
This is not her first sighting of a rubber boa on her large property but it is Polley’s first hands-on encounter with the miniature constrictor.
The former teacher says she had never heard of the rubber boa until she and her husband saw one in their garden and he told her what it was.
“I did the research and this time I knew exactly what it was,” she says, noting the boas will occasionally come above ground to sun themselves.
After her lucky grab, Polley put the snake in a bucket of moist moss to keep him comfortable until her granddaughter arrived home and could take photos.
“It was exciting because I handled him for quite a while and you could see the muscles constricting,” she says with enthusiasm. “When we put him back in exactly the same spot, it was only seconds before he was underground.”
Polley says people are so surprised when she tells them there are boas and small lizards in the Interior.