An anaconda snake is loose in New Jersey's Lake Hopatcong, and a local reptile expert said Friday he's breaking his silence after animal control told him to keep quiet about the dangerous reptile.
"I've known it was an anaconda since last week, but I was told by animal control and state police not to say anything," Gerald Andrejcak, who works for Common Sense for Animals, told The New Jersey Herald
. "Officials were afraid that if it came out that the snake was an anaconda it would cause mass hysteria. It needed to come out, it is a public safety issue."
Previously, Andrejcak and the animal control office identified the serpent as a boa constrictor, which is not a lie — because anacondas are in the boa family — but it wasn't exactly the whole truth. He said the water-dwelling reptile is likely a green anaconda, which is the same type as that seen in the famous 1997 "Anaconda" film starring Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, and Ice Cube.
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He estimates that the anaconda is 15 to 16 feet long, about the length of a car. Its head is nearly the size of human's. Andrejcak said the anaconda was likely somebody's pet, which was let loose when it grew too large to manage.
Andrejcak advised those fishing, boating, or hanging out near the lake to stay far away from the animal if they spot it, and call animal control. He said it wouldn't likely target an adult human, but might go after small children and pets.
"What we're afraid of is the animals: small dogs, cats, raccoons — and I would advise people not to put their baby in the lake," animal control Officer Dale Sloat told CBS New York
. "A snake this size can probably swim about 25 miles an hour."
Being constrictors, anacondas wrap themselves around prey to asphyxiate it, then swallow it whole.
Police and animal control have been notified a few times by local residents who've seen the snake, but so far no one has been able to catch or and remove it from the lake.
One local has created a Twitter account, "@HopatcongBoa
," to keep people updated about sightings and search parties.
"I will be searching the banks and the reeds because that is where it will be," Andrejcak told reporters.
On Sunday, he kept that promise when he led a small group outing to look for the scaly beast, crawling up drain pipes and wading into the shallows.
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