Ssssomething big may be slithering through the woods near a popular summer spot just outside of Portland, Maine.
Westbrook police on Saturday warned residents and visitors to the Presumpscot River area that the skin of an unidentified species of snake, roughly 10 feet long, was found near the boat launch at Riverbank Park.
Officers responded to the scene, collected and tagged the skin, and shared a photo of their findings on Facebook. The post on the department’s social media page has been shared more than 8,000 times, and has led to speculation that the snake skin could belong to a large snake that police said they saw earlier in the summer.
“Until the type of snake is determined and we can assess the safety risk, we caution people who recreate along the Presumpscot River to remain alert, maintain a safe distance from any wildlife, and report any sightings of the snake to the Westbrook Police Department,” police said on Facebook.
It was unclear if someone possibly placed the skin there as a prank, or if it was indeed shed by a python.
Westbrook Police Captain Sean Lally said he couldn’t imagine someone purchasing 10 feet of snake skin to perpetuate a hoax.
“I don’t know how readily available those are,” he said.
Lally said that the skin was sent to a lab in Texas for testing, where an expert will do a “DNA sequence” to try and identify the species.
A cryptozoologist, a person who studies creatures that are often part of folklore, has volunteered to search for the snake in the area Saturday using thermal imaging cameras, Lally said.
“He is going to give it a shot, and he’s got a team with him,” Lally said. “The intrigue lies in the mystery, I guess.”
In late June, Westbrook police said an officer on patrol witnessed “a large snake” on the riverbank near Speirs Street, which is adjacent to the Presumpscot River and near Riverbank Park.
Police said the snake was eating a large mammal — it could have been a beaver — before it made its way to the banks of the river and swam to the other side. Police tried to take video of the encounter, but because it occurred around 3:30 a.m., lighting was “poor” and “the video is of no use,” police said.
“It was worse than the Loch Ness photo and Bigfoot video. Poor lighting to blame,” officers said to a doubtful commenter on their Facebook page.
In that incident, police similarly estimated that the snake was around 10 feet long. The sighting led to chatter within the Westbrook community, and residents in the area dubbed the creature “Wessie,” or the “Presumpscot Python,” according to police.
The snake’s alleged presence even spawned a social media account called “Wessie P. Thon,” on Twitter. Tweets from the account are written as though Wessie has thumbs — and a smartphone.
There is also a Facebook page for “Wessie.”
“I’m sssssstill here!,” says the latest update on the “Wessie the Presumpscot Python” Facebook page.
Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.