Tom Bush is a believable guy. When he tells a story he tells it matter-of-factly, no embellishing, just the facts. So when Bush said he saw ‘the snake’ in the Lake Hopatcong over the weekend, you tend to believe him.
Bush and a dozen passengers in his 28’ cabin-cruiser were moving through the water in the no-wake zone of the lake just north of Brady Bridge, near Liffy Island, late in the evening on Saturday.
Just before he reached the end of the no-wake zone, Bush, at the wheel of the boat, saw what he thought was a momma duck and her ducklings in the water about 100 feet away. His wife, Amy, standing next to him in the boat, also said she saw a “duck followed by a line of tiny little ducks.”
As the boat got closer though Tom realized he was not looking at a duck.
“You never know what you’re going to see when you’re on the water; mink, muskrats, fish jumping, cormorants, eagles, anything,” he said.
What he did not expect to see, he said, was a snake. Maybe the snake.
“It was like nothing you ever saw before,” said Bush shaking his head in disbelief.
By this time everyone else in the boat realized they were looking at a snake as well, the head as big as a duck's body, said Bush.
The ducklings following the momma duck? According to Amy, the ducklings turned out to be the body of the snake peeking through the water. She said she saw about eight feet of the snake’s body.
And 12 adults, most all with cell phones or cameras and no photos to corroborate the story?
“We were in such shock seeing this we were standing there like idiots and nobody took a picture,” said Amy. “I am so freaked out about this,” she added.
Tom, a lifelong resident of the lake and one of the three captains on the lake’s new dinner boat, Miss Lotta, kept his boat cruising slowly toward the snake. The snake, he said, “was going the same speed as a duck would be swimming.”
But the boat, at this point about 50 feet away from the dark-green creature, startled the snake.
“The next thing you know it looked like a big fish jumping out of the water, about two feet into the air and twisting to the right. His head then slapped the water and at the same time his body came out of the water, just like a sea serpent. You’ve seen pictures of sea serpents with the head out of the water then the curvature of the back out of water—it looked like a serpent.”
His wife agrees with his description of the event.
“It humped its back and dove down into the water,” said Amy.
A call to Gerald Andrejcak, the reptile specialist who has been searching for the snake, said Bush’s description of the snake’s actions “sounds about right.”
On Thursday Anderjcak and two volunteers spent most of the day searching for a snake at three or four lakefront properties on South New Jersey Avenue and four lakefront properties across the channel on Halsey Island. After three hours of searching Anderjcak said he spotted the head of a snake inside a boathouse, the head resting on a concentrated pile of lake weeds floating in the water. At the time, officials were reporting the snake was probably a boa constrictor. Two days after his sighting, Anderjcak went public with his theory that the snake is actually an anaconda, and not a boa constrictor. According to Anderjcak local animal control officers also believed the rouge snake was an anaconda and not a boa constrictor.
“I was asked to keep it quiet by local animal control because they thought it would cause a panic and I agree with them,” said Anderjcak.
Admittedly not a snake expert, Bush is certain he saw a snake and probably an anaconda, noting that boas do not tend to stay in the water for long periods of time and anacondas tend to live in water.
“I don’t like snakes so this is something I would not be kidding about,” he said.
He describes what he saw as having a dark green body and a lighter green underbelly, which he saw when the snake breached and twisted out of the water.
“This snake looked pretty happy in the water,” he said.