The sighting of a large snake by two Westbrook police officers early Wednesday – confirming a report last week that many had doubted – caught fire on social media, where the reptile was dubbed “Wessie” and the “Presumpscot Python.”

However, while police and city officials acknowledge the buzz, they are also attempting to resolve it.

“It’s taken on a life of its own,” said Westbrook police Capt. Sean Lally Wednesday afternoon. “But it’s no different than any other animal that’s out there that you need to be aware of. Being aware of your surroundings and keeping an eye on your kids is probably the best approach.”

Just hours after patrol officers from the Westbrook Police Department came across what they said was a 10-foot-long snake eating what looked like a beaver or other mammal, social media exploded. Someone created a Twitter account for the snake – @WessieThon (short for Wessie P. Thon) – which had more than 200 followers by noon. Residents saw signs asking, “Have you seen Wessie the snake?” on restaurants such as the local Subway, a few hundred feet from where the snake was spotted.

The snake was reported by the officers along the riverbank at Riverbank Park in the area of Speirs Street at about 3:30 a.m. According to the report, the first officer witnessed the snake feeding, and then the other officer arrived.

“A second officer arrived and they both watched it swim across the river to the Brown Street side of the Presumpscot River, where it disappeared in the thick underbrush. They estimated its length to be at least 10 feet,” the report states.

Lally said the Maine Warden Service was on the river Wednesday morning, but didn’t find anything. He said the wardens believe it’s most likely an exotic snake, a pet that someone released or had escaped. He said if it’s captured, the wardens would like to see it.

“Some of those snakes can grow quite large, and if they have an abundant food source they won’t stop growing,” he said. “It’s not inconceivable.”

He also said that until someone snaps a picture, some people will still remain skeptical. One of the officers took a video and a few pictures, but since it was dark they are grainy and hard to see.

Mayor Colleen Hilton said she was one of the skeptics until Wednesday morning. However, taking a serious tone, she said she’s looking at convening some “specialists” to speak with those who have seen the reptile, and form a plan going forward.

“People get carried away with it,” she said of the snake becoming such a big story.

But, she said, many children and others utilize that portion of the river, especially during summer months, for fishing and swimming.

“People are nervous,” she said.

The crowds of people and members of the media had cleared by mid-afternoon Wednesday. The story of the snake didn’t keep a father and his children from standing at the river’s edge, feeding ducks and other birds.

The police department may do a coordinated search soon, but, Lally said, searching the muddy riverbank and river is difficult. They’re hoping that with the public’s attention, the snake will be spotted again, and can be taken care of by police.

Lally said he spoke to both officers Wednesday morning, who were “sure” that it was a snake they saw. Lally declined to name the two officers who spotted the animal.

The press release said wardens also believed the snake “will remain dormant for a few days because it just ate a substantial meal.”

The first sighting of the large snake was reported by a resident on Thursday, June 23, and since that time both Westbrook police and fire personnel have been routinely searching the area, with some believing that the initial report was a hoax or exaggerated.

“We ask the public to be mindful of the snake’s presence in the area and immediately report any sightings so we can remove the animal from the river,” said the police press release.

Hilton said she saw signs at Ethos, an office building along the river, asking, “Have you seen the snake?”

“It’s going to have it’s own theme music pretty soon,” she said.

Signs like this, asking, “Have you seen Wessie the snake?” have popped up in downtown Westbrook, a few hundred feet from where “Wessie” the snake was spotted by police early Wednesday.

Just before a powerful thunderstorm hit Wednesday afternoon, a few people remained by the banks of the Presumpscot River hoping to catch a glimpse of a large snake dubbed “Wessie.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.