(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Panic has gripped Jefferson County, New Jersey, after a deadly green anaconda reportedly about 15 to 16 feet long was spotted roaming about Lake Hopatcong several times in recent weeks.
State officials and other private citizens are now seeking to capture or kill it as the creature can turn extremely deadly when threatened.
Reptile specialist Gerald Andrejcak told NJ.com Friday that he had been tracking media reports about the snake on Facebook, but only learned it was the deadly green anaconda last Thursday, after spotting the reptile just before entering the lake by kayak at a boathouse in the area.
He said he informed local animal control officials about what he saw but was instructed to keep quiet about the snake's species to avoid panic. Now that the news has become public, however, he's telling all.
"It's a green anaconda," said Andrejcak, who has a degree in zoology and more than 20 years experience in handling and breeding large snakes. "I've known its species (since last week), but I was sworn to keep my mouth shut by local officials to avoid causing a panic. Now that there's a panic, I'm going on the record."
Green anacondas can grow more than 29 feet long and weigh up to 550 pounds, and Hopatcong animal control officer Dale Sloat is warning anyone who may come across it to beware.
"You don't want to touch it," Sloat told CBS. "You don't want to go toward it. You don't want to threaten it. It's not going to come at a person unless it's threatened, cornered, caught — then, it will squeeze you to death. This big a snake would be aggressive."
Tony Colantonio, who rents a property on the lake, told NJ.com that he has spotted the snake numerous times over the last two weeks and told local authorities, but they wouldn't believe him and their response left him very worried.
"(This information) needs to be out there," said Colantonio. "There's kids swimming in the lake, there's going to be people in the water this weekend, and my kids can't go in their backyard. It's a green anaconda, a predator, hunting all day every day. It's not a python that lives 80 percent of its life on land and only needs to eat once a month. It's one of the most aggressive snakes out there. It's been two weeks and (the township and state) have done nothing. Everybody I call just blows me off."
While boaters have since gone looking for the snake to eliminate the threat, Andrejcak, who estimated the reptile to be about 15 to 16 feet long with a head the size of his hand, is hoping to save it. He is worried that all the people now hunting the snake will do is to chase it to another part of the lake.
According to Colantonio, however, "If someone can kill it and get out of here that's fine. ... I want proof that it's gone. This thing's been living at my house. I should start charging it rent."