Police continue to search for a large snake that escaped its owner in a South Jersey town last month. However, they also say the reptile doesn’t pose much of a threat to humans.
Animal control officers received several reports of a snake in the Villas section of Lower Township. The reptile was spotted several times but still has not been captured.
One witness, Becky Clements, told NBC40 she took a picture of the snake eating a seagull in her backyard.
“I never thought I’d ever see a snake that big in the Villas,” Clements said.
Lower Township Police located the original owner, a resident of Villas. They also determined the species and identified the snake as a red-tailed boa, approximately six-feet long and eight-pounds.
Despite the panic from some residents, officials say the snake is relatively harmless to humans.
“No one should feel unsafe in their own backyard,” said Lower Township Manager Mike Voll. “This was an unfortunate case of a pet snake that wasn’t being watched properly and it caused concern when it got away. The bottom line is that people don’t have to be afraid.”
Officials still say however that residents should supervise their children and pets as they continue to search for the snake.
“The red-tailed boa is not aggressive and unlikely to be found wanting anything other than amphibians, rodents, rabbits and birds,” said a Township spokesperson.
Police say the owner is not facing any criminal charges since it’s not illegal to own a snake in New Jersey. The red-tailed boa can be found at pet stores nationwide. Officials say the owner is still accepting responsibility however for not watching the snake carefully after he took it out of its aquarium for cleaning and exercise.
Boas are normally shy and primarily nocturnal, doing most of their movement during dawn and dusk, according to Dr. Nick Holland of Shore Animal Control Services.
Boas are native to South America as well as some areas of Mexico and are a popular item at pet stores.
Officials hope to find the snake soon. According to Holland, the snake won’t survive in cool weather and could also die from eating wildlife that carries bacteria that it's not immune to.
The snake was last spotted eating a bird around the 200 block of Arbor Road earlier this week. According to experts, the reptile will likely retreat to a cool, dark place for three weeks to a month in order to digest its meal.
“Residents don’t have to be afraid,” said Lower Township Police Chief William Mastriana. “Even though this isn’t an aggressive snake, we want people to exercise caution and take the time to check their property, their sheds and crawl spaces. If you see something, give the police department a call.”
Lower Township Police are advising all residents who spot the snake to call the department at 609-886-2711 as well as animal control at 1-800-351-1822.