An elusive 10 -foot-long snake dubbed “Wessie”is giving a Maine community the shakes for the second time in two months. But not everyone is convinced the beast is even real.
Police have announced the detect of a giant snakeskin near a Westbrook river park on Saturday. The skin was reported to police around 3 p. m. along Presumpscot River, near a boat launch area in Riverbank park, Westbrook police said in a Facebook post.
It is close to the area where, in June, two local policemen reported ensure a approximately 10 -foot-longsnake eat a large mammal and swimming away.
The creature, which evaded capture, went on to supposedly brag about its life on the lam in a parody Twitter account.
But because of a lack of photo evidence of the snake and the intact condition and curious placement of the skin in the police photo, some have suggested that it’s all a hoax.
Rob Christian, a herpetologist and the president of the Maine Herpetological Society in Millinocket, sides with that opinion. He called the snakeskin all-around unusual.
“Snakes don’t shed out in the open like that, ” he told The Huffington Post Sunday. “Getting a full shed like that, even under ideal conditions, is truly unusual.”
Christian, who said he’s spoken with local police about the discovery , noted that when serpents shed their skin in the wild they scratch up against stones and rough vegetation to help peel away the old skin.
“You’re going to find the snakeskin wrap around branches, ” he said. “You wouldn’t watch a regular shed out in the open like that, especially a large snake like that.”
He was also suspicious of the stretched-out placement of the skin.
“Typically when you get a large snake, over four feet long,[ the shed scalp is] get rolled up into a ball, ” he said. “Most of the time what people will do is they’ll stretch it out and let it dry out.” That’s what he believes happened here.
It’s not clear who took the photo the police or the person who found the skin or if the skin was moved or touched before the picture was taken. Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If this turns out to be a con, who would plant a snakeskin along the river? It could be a simple prank. But Christian and the herpetological society point to local animal rights activists who have been petitioning for stricter country rules for owning, breeding and selling animals.
The new situated of rules, which nation wildlife officials approved Wednesday, crack down on illegal ownership in particular. The change caused some reptile collectors including researchers to fear that their animals would be banned or become harder to obtain, The Kennebec Journal reported.
Christian believes “Wessie” popped up with curious timing, just as discussion and debate of these rules was getting heated. He feels the narrative may have encouraged people to vote a certain way out of anxiety, since the elusive serpent was suspected to be someone’s illegal pet that either escaped or was set free. He added that the kind of snake that produced the skin is likely not venomous or dangerous to humen, however.
Christian accused a local animal rights group, led by activist Kristina Snyder, of being behind the alleged plant.
Snyder denied the claims to HuffPost. She said she has faced similar accusations from herpetologists since she helped move the legislation, but that her primary interest has always been in tightening statutes that protect big cat , not snakes.
“I didn’t ever think this would tie me to a snake narrative, ” she said. “I don’t even know snake species so I don’t know what was determined or seen.”
Asked whether she was behind the snakeskin, she said: “I can give you a very emphatic absolutely not.”
Hoax or not, police are asking park and river guests to “remain alert, maintain a safe distance from any wildlife, and report any sightings of the snake to the Westbrook Police Department, ” they said in their Facebook post.
They added that the skin has been collected and would be examined to determine what type of snake shed it and “what risks this type of snake poses to public safety.”
This tale has been updated to include a response from Snyder .
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