VILLAS, N.J. - A python - or boa constrictor - is on the loose in this Cape May County community, but animal control says it's probably not looking for a meal any time soon.
Last week, a resident saw the snake eating a seagull in a tree in her backyard. She snapped a photo but didn't think to call it in until days later, said Linda Gentille, the public information officer for Shore Animal Control.
Describing the snake's behavior as "terrorizing" might be a bit of a stretch, Gentille said.
"The snake is probably not going to be bothering anyone, and it's probably going to stay hidden away now that it has eaten," Gentille said.
"The panic is probably for nothing," she said, "because they've rarely attacked. They're usually hiding and feeding on rodents."
Still, residents of the neighborhood in Lower Township are encouraged to watch over small pets and children when they are playing outside.
Authorities have received reports of the snake in the 200 block of Arbor Avenue, according to Gentille. It's unlikely to stray too far from that location.
"All children and small animals should not be left unattended . . . until it's caught or until the winter comes," Gentille said. "The snake will die in our climate" when the cold sets in.
Shore Animal Control has contacted the only person in the area with a permit for an exotic animal, and that snake is safe at home.
Two animal control officers along with Lower Township police officers are looking for the snake, which is estimated to be 10 feet long.
"We're getting all kinds of calls now for any snake because people think that any snake they see is this one," Gentille said. "They're looking at abandoned properties near the area where it might be hiding."
The last reported sighting came Wednesday, but authorities were unable to confirm it was the snake being sought.
Any sightings may be reported to Shore Animal Control at 800-351-1822.