The snakeskin that was found Aug. 20 in a park along the Presumpscot River in Westbrook is from an 8- or 9-foot-long anaconda – a snake that is not native to Maine.

Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts said Tuesday afternoon that DNA test results confirmed the species.

DNA testing was done by John S. Placyk Jr., an associate professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Texas at Tyler.

“We do not know if the snakeskin was planted as a hoax or if it was actually left there by an anaconda,” Roberts said in a news release.

Westbrook police officers and a resident first saw the snake – which has been dubbed “Wessie” – in June. Officers said they saw the snake feasting on what appeared to have been a beaver. Those sightings unleashed a flood of Wessie seekers, who began trolling Riverbank Park trying to locate the huge snake.

A Twitter handle called “Wessie P. Thon” also came into existence in June. “Wessie P. Thon” is now followed by more than 1,700 people and describes itself as: “Hanging out in Westbrook, shedding my skin. Hungry. So very hungry. My head is not the size of a soccer ball. You’ll never take me alive Westbrook PD!”


Sightings of the snake, which people initially thought it was a python, captured the imaginations of the nation. After the snakeskin was found this month, Westbrook police began receiving inquiries from reporters for CNN, USA Today, the Huffington Post and The Boston Globe.

On Tuesday, after Roberts identified the snake as an anaconda, Wessie P. Thon tweeted: “Anaconda, Python … to-may-to, to-mah-to. Wait?! I’m a what? I think I’m having a mid-life crisis?!? Mom!!! You have some explaining to do!”

The Westbrook Police Department will continue to work with specialists to strategize on ways to locate, capture or euthanize the snake.

Anacondas live in the Amazon jungles of South America and are part of the boa constrictor family. Anacondas eat amphibious animals, such as frogs and toads, as well as fish, caiman, birds, ducks and turtles. The snake’s average length is 20 feet and the reptiles can weigh up to 300 pounds.

Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, said it is illegal for anyone in Maine to own an anaconda as a pet. However, he said, it is not illegal for someone to possess an anaconda’s skin – a reference to the possibility that the snakeskin may have been planted in the park by someone.

Latti said people can get an importation or possession permit from the state that would allow them to own other snake species, such as pythons and boas.


Latti’s department has provided information to the Westbrook Police Department but is leaving the investigation to police.

“We’re not concerned because we know it won’t survive a Maine winter,” Latti said.

In the meantime, Placyk and Roberts are urging the public to remain cautious in the event the snake is still alive and crawling along the banks of the river.

Like Latti, Roberts said anacondas would be unable to survive a Maine winter and are more likely to live in and around water. The snake is more likely to flee into a water body when confronted by a human.

“They will usually try and get away, usually via a body of water,” Roberts said.

“If you don’t get it, January will,” one person posted on the Westbrook Police Department’s Facebook page.


Anacondas are not venomous, but they do bite. A bite from an anaconda will be painful, but is not fatal. It can be treated with antibiotics.

“Our experts estimate the snake that the skin came from to be around 8 to 9 feet long. An anaconda of that size is a juvenile snake and is not a threat to humans,” Roberts said. “It would, however, be a threat to small pets such as a cat or small dog.”

Roberts urged the public not to approach any snake or try to capture it.

Anyone who spots a large snake is urged to call 911.


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