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