JEFFERSON, N.J. – A 16-foot-long exotic snake reportedly slithering around New Jersey's largest lake is apparently a suburban legend. Or the snake just isn't hungry.
The state has stopped looking for the reptile after scientists failed to find any evidence of it in Lake Hopatcong and traps baited with chicken were left untouched.
Three unconfirmed sightings this month of a snake, perhaps an anaconda as long as 16 feet, raised concerns among visitors and swimmers. The state investigated, erring on the side of public safety.
State wildlife experts found no scientific or biological evidence that an exotic snake is in the area, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said Thursday. "There were no signs of droppings or skin," he said.
Jerry Andrejcak, assistant director of New Jersey's Common Sense for Animals, said earlier that he spotted the head and part of a body of what he estimated as a 16-foot-long anaconda. He said he cornered it last week before it escaped by slithering between his legs.
"You can't miss an anaconda head. If you've ever dealt with any kind of snakes, any type of anaconda, you can never forget that head," Andrejcak said. "I know the color and the patterns and everything else. Right off the bat, I knew exactly what it was right when I saw it."
Andrejcak said Thursday that he would continue looking.
"I'm dedicated to finding this thing," he said. However, he has yet to find any solid evidence.
The 4-square-mile lake about 30 miles northwest of Newark is home to black snakes and water snakes that can grow up to 10 feet long, Ragonese said.
He said officials would resume the search if anyone produces a photo or a video of an exotic snake.