HOPATCONG, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A new danger has been lurking in the waters of the largest lake in New Jersey, in the form of a potentially dangerous snake.
As CBS 2's Tracee Carrasco reported, a boa constrictor that could be up to 20 feet long is on the loose around Lake Hopatcong, and neighbors have been worried.
"(My boyfriend) turned to me and said, 'There's a snake in the water,' and I said, 'There's no way there's a snake in the water,'" said area resident Michelle Poli.
But there was indeed a snake in the water, and not a small, friendly garter snake either. Poli has been looking nervously into the murky waters outside her Lake Hopatcong home, knowing somewhere that there is a massive snake swimming around.
"It's scary, because you don't know where he's creeping from, so we just want it caught," she said.
In the last two weeks, Poli and her boyfriend have seen the snake swimming. The snake even made its way into their boathouse.
Now, after a dozen different sightings, Hopatcong animal control officers believe the 15- to 20-foot-long boa constrictor is in the water, and they have warned lake goers to be alert.
"What we're afraid of is the animals, small dogs, cats, raccoons -- and I would advise people not to put their baby in the lake," said animal control Officer Dale Sloat. "A snake this size can probably swim about 25 miles an hour."
Sloat believes the boa constrictor was likely someone's pet, and was released into the water when it became too big to care for.
"We have to catch it," Sloat said.
While boa constrictors are not poisonous snakes, animal control officers said anyone who might happen to run into it in the water or on land should not try to capture it on his or her own.
"You don't want to touch it. You don't want to go towards it. You don't want to threaten it. It's not going to come at a person unless it's threatened, cornered, caught – then, it will squeeze you to death," Sloat said. "This big a snake would be aggressive."
Poli is taking precautions herself.
"We're staying out of the water," she said. "We're really not using the backyard."
When the boa constrictor is captured, it will likely be taken to a snake sanctuary.
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