Monster snake slithering in Rumford canal

RUMFORD - OK, snake owners. Check your cages. Anybody missing a 17-foot-long boa constrictor?

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal
Two people told Rumford police dispatcher Sue Milligan on Wednesday morning that they saw a 17-foot-long boa constrictor enter the Rumford canal here behind Bartash's store, seen in the background.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal
An over-abundance of spring rain has turned the banks of Rumford's canal system into lush brushy habitat that could be home to a giant snake if sightings on Wednesday morning turn out to be true. This view shows the Hartford Street bridge.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal
High water from more than two weeks of rain has risen water levels in Rumford's canal system as illustrated by the Route 108 bridge in the background. On Wednesday, two people told police they saw a giant snake entering the water through the brush on the right off Canal Street.

On Wednesday morning, two people contacted Rumford police dispatcher Sue Milligan and told her they'd seen a monster snake entering the canal system off Canal Street behind Bartash's store.

Milligan said that based on the descriptions of the reptile, she believed it to be a 17-foot-long boa constrictor.

Because an apparent large snake sighting isn't a police matter, Milligan said she alerted the Maine Warden Service.
"Once it gets into the water, it's not our problem," Milligan said.

Wardens will be investigating, spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said early Wednesday evening via e-mail.

"The Maine Warden Service has received a report of an apparent large snake in the river, and a broad description of where it may be," Turcotte said.

"If anyone has detailed information of a specific location where it may be for an extended period of time, please call the Warden Service so that the snake can be identified and removed, if necessary," she added.

To contact the warden service, call 800-228-0857.

If there is a giant snake in the Rumford canal system, it would most likely be a red-tail boa constrictor or a Burmese python, according to Robbie White of Mexico.

White keeps several large snakes as pets and is regarded as the local expert based on his annual show-and-tell sessions using his snakes to teach youngsters about the reptiles during summer reading programs in libraries.

"When people see a snake of that length, they automatically think it's a boa," White said. "But there are no snakes in the state of Maine that I know of that are going to grow to that length, unless it was a pet and it escaped."

If it's at least 14 feet long, it's a red-tail boa constrictor, he said.

"But if it's much bigger - like 16 feet or 18 feet - then you're talking more along the lines of what I understand is a Burmese python," White said. "But a Burmese python, once it gets that size, would be very aggressive."

"I mean, you wouldn't want to go in there after it unless you had a catch pole and a couple of people with you, because they are quite strong and they are very aggressive," he added.

When told of the Rumford sightings, White said a 17-foot-long boa would have an elongated head the size of a grapefruit. It would also be right at home in the water.

"Boa constrictors love the water, oh yeah," White said. "My 10-foot red-tail boa, she stayed in her pool of water for almost two months one time; just had her nose sticking out of it."

So how does one spot a monster boa constrictor that enjoys its watery environment?

"When it gets hungry or whenever the sun comes out so it can sun itself," White said. "That's the best chance to see it."

If a 17-foot-long snake is actually living in the water and brush along the canal, it isn't likely to go anywhere if it's got plenty of food, he said.

"When I get some free time, I will go over there to the canal system and see if I can spot it, because I can tell what it is from a piece of snake skin," he said. "I can also tell by the byproduct from them digesting something if it's a large pile of poop."

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 's picture

I don't think that the size

I don't think that the size of the snakes are the real issue here. I think sales and ownership of potentially lethal animals such as boa constrictors and pythons should be illegal. Once these animals slither away freely, they are not like macaws and parrots, quite the contrary: they can kill someone.

 's picture

MrT, I am not defensive I

MrT, I am not defensive I just get sick of all the misinformation out there regarding snakes and the sensationalized stories about them. Burmese pythons do get 14 feet. Boa constrictors don't. They are two separate species. It's like saying I was biten by a 100 lb chihuahua and proving it by saying Great Danes get 100 lbs.

 's picture

As for the size of a boa

As for the size of a boa constrictor:
"Since this topic is frequently discussed and there is a great amount of confusion regarding the potential size of Boa constrictors, we decided to dedicate a separate page to this topic.
Horror stories about boas of 14 ft in length (or even more) are often scaring people who are considering the purchase of a Boa constrictor.
First off, we have yet to see a boa of such a length. Even if such an animal actually does exist, it would surely be an exceptional case, sort of like a 7 ft tall top score basketball player in the first league.
Unfortunately, many authors of books about boas stick to such record dimensions and mislead the people with these. For instance: It would not make any sense to write a book about the anatomy of human beings in which a height of 7 ft is given for Homo sapiens. However, this is exactly what happens in these books. Most of the authors provide the record length, thereby creating the impression in the reader that this is actually the average size.
OK, what size do they actually reach?

In our experience, even those subspecies of Boa constrictor that are considered to have a significant growth potential rarely reach 10 ft in length.

The largest Boa constrictors are Boa c. constrictor from Peru and Boa c. imperator from Colombia. We would declare the average size of sexually mature females to be 8 ft. (if a reasonable feeding schedule has been applied).

 's picture

Lead Dog, I am wondering why

Lead Dog, I am wondering why you make that comment. There's no record anywhere of a boa constrictor killing a human. Yet people are killed by dogs every year.
"From Sept. 1, 1982, until Jan. 1, 2007, there were 2,227 reported attacks causing human bodily harm by dogs kept as family pets (guard dogs, police dogs, and dogs trained to fight were excluded). Of these reported attacks, 267 resulted in death and 1,329 resulted in maiming (i.e., loss of a limb or other permanent disfigurement). Pitbulls, bull mastiffs, and rottweilers were responsible for 73 percent of the total attacks, 66 percent of the deaths, and 72 percent of the maimings. Children and elderly persons were the victims in almost all of the deaths and maimings."
Although it does happen, very few people are attacked and killed by a non-venomous pet snake. A burmese python is the most common snake involved.
Mr. T - a 14 ft boa is an extreme rarity so why make such a statement as if it is common.

 's picture

These are large, dangerous

These are large, dangerous exotic animals that should not be kept as pets without special permits. They should be regulated by similar rules to keeping a lion as a pet. This snake should be cptured and destroyed, not necessarily in that order. People who keep them as pets should have to be licensed and part of that licensing should include having their containment facilities inspected by animal welfare officers.

 's picture

Well the local snake

Well the local snake "expert" ought to get his facts straight. Boas don't get 17 ft or even 13 feet. Average is about 8. His 10 footer is a big boa. I doubt the snake is any where near 17 feet anyway. You can probably cut the size in half. Most snakes, including Burmese pythons, become less aggressive the larger they get, not more. Snakes are aggressive out of fear and what does a 15 ft. snake have to fear. It may last until mid-Sept but then it will be too cold to function and eventually will die. With the average temps in the low 60's it will be in direct sun if it ever comes out. Should be easy to find.


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