Reports: Boa constrictor on the loose

Investigators looking after several reports made

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By Laurie Gordon

— Reports of a huge boa constrictor lurking in the waters and on the shores of Lake Hopatcong has made national news and has even prompted someone to create a Twitter account for the snake called @HopatcongBoa.

The Jefferson Township Police Department received a phone call last week from a concerned citizen that a large snake was seen in Lake Hopatcong near a beach association in Prospect Point, said Jefferson Deputy Police Chief William Craig.

"The matter was immediately referred to the NJ State Police Marine Division," Craig said.

There have been no confirmed sightings of the snake in Jefferson Township, according to Craig.

New Jersey State Trooper Jeff Flynn, one of the department's public information officers said, "On our end we have investigated a few reported incidents but none of the troopers who searched the area actually saw the snake so at this point it's really unknown if there is a snake or not."

If more calls come in with sightings, troopers will be sent out, Flynn said.

Hopatcong Animal Control Officer Dale Sloat said the jury is still out as to whether there's really a 12-foot boa constrictor on the loose or it's a hoax.

His office got a call last week that the snake was seen the night before in a boat house.

"They waited until morning to call in the report," Sloat said.

The animal control office is working in conjunction with the Jefferson Animal Control Office and will have a snake expert investigate Halsey Island on Thursday to look for signs of the boa.

An uninhabited isle in Lake Hopatcog, Halsey Island would, in Sloat's opinion, "be a perfect place for such a snake to live and catch wild animals to eat."

The problem is, a tenth of a mile away, across shallow waters, lies the Jefferson shore, and that's where residents reported seeing a large snake in their boat house, he said. "The snake could have crossed the water looking for food. Assuming it found it there, it would most likely return to Halsey Island to digest."

Digestion could take up to a week, and then it could return to the Jefferson shore, Sloat said.

As for now, there is no picture of the purported snake and no official has seen it, Sloat said.

Should the snake expert find positive evidence of its existence, traps would be set and officials would work together to capture it.

"It knows [humans] are too big for it to eat," Sloat said. "It would not be aggressive unless cornered."

The best thing to do if you come across the snake is to back away and just back away slowly, said Ted Spinks, the owner of The Animal Hospital of Sussex County.

"You need to get a safe distance because the snake's striking distance has to do with the length of the snake," Spinks said.

He said while humans can back away slowly, the concern is for animals.

"They won't know what to do and the snake can easily constrict them," Spinks said.

These snakes are not venomous but constrict, or squeeze, their prey.

"It's a long process," he said. "And a painful one for the victim."

Spinks cited an incident that occurred several years ago in the area in which a snake constricted a man's arm.

"Fortunately there were people around to help him," Spinks said.

The Animal Hospital of Sussex County has received a number of calls about the loose snake, Spinks said.

As to how such a reptile could have landed on the shores of Lake Hopatcong, Sloat said that possibly someone thought it was great to have a three-foot boa as a pet but that, "they grow up and go from eating mice to needing rats and the like. They become very hard to take care of."

Someone without a permit could have released the snake and is afraid to come forward or it could have escaped on its own, Sloat said.

More information as to whether the snake exists should be revealed on Thursday after the snake expert's investigation.

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