The boid genus Epicrates contains 10 species in the West Indies, several of which are listed as threatened or endangered, whereas the status of the others remains unknown. Little is known about Turks Island Boas (Epicrates chrysogaster chrysogaster), a subspecies of the Southern Bahamas Boa endemic to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and no published ecological studies exist for this subspecies. A long history of human habitation, greatly exacerbated by exponentially increasing development in the last several decades, appears to be threatening the remaining populations of these boas. However, a lack of basic ecological information is holding back conservation efforts. Here we report on the first multiyear ecological study of Turks Island Boas, focusing on an important population located on the small island of Big Ambergris Cay in the southeastern margin of the Caicos Bank. Encounter rates of up to 3.5 snakes per person-hour make this population especially easy to study. We captured 249 snakes, 11 of which were recaptures. We provide basic natural history information including size, color pattern, girth, body temperature, abundance, diet, activity, diurnal refuge selection, and population size. We also clarify the known distribution and discuss the conservation concerns of this species. This study fills a gap in our ecological knowledge of Bahamian boas and will provide important baseline data for the Big Ambergris Cay population of Turks Island Boas as this small island undergoes extensive development over the next several decades.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4