JEFFERSON – Gerald Andrejcak looks and acts like what one might perceive to be a snake wrangler. Rough, fearless, do-rag on his head, tattoos all over his arms and legs.
On Thursday the seasoned reptile handler spent most of the morning along South New Jersey Avenue and the opposite shoreline of Halsey Island slogging through the weeds and the muck, peeking into boathouses and under docks, turning over rafts and kayaks, even crawling into a storm drain, searching for a large boa constrictor that has been seen in the area.
Then, just before noon, while searching from a kayak, he spotted the head and about two feet of the body of the tan-colored snake resting on top of a mass of lake weeds that were nestled in the corner of a boathouse. Within seconds of spotting it, the snake went under water. Andrejcak jumped out of his kayak to try to keep the snake inside the boathouse but said he “felt the snake glide past my leg.”
The snake has been spotted in the area by three different people, including Andrejcak, Joseph Bongiovanni, and Tony Colantonio, who has seen it seven times in the past week. Colantonio, who rents a house on South New Jersey Avenue owned by Bongiovanni, said he typically sees the snake early in the morning or late in the day.
But many people remain skeptical, said Colantonio who describes the snake as “silky smooth moving through the water.”
“I want this out of here,” said Colantonio who lives in the lakefront home with his girlfriend, Michelle Colello and their kids. “I’m glad people are starting to believe its real.”
Colello said she would not let the kids in or near the water until the snake is caught.
“It’s disrupting our life—it’s more of a nuisance now, not a novelty,” said Colello.
Andrejcak, who works for Common Sense for Animals, a no-kill animal shelter in Stewartsville, had help searching the shoreline from Naomi Modafferi, a part-time animal control officer from Hopatcong, Steve Vil, also from Common Sense for Animals, and four marine patrol officers, who caught wind of the sighting and raced to the boathouse to offer assistance. But by 2pm, the group called off the search. Andrejcak is certain the snake is frequenting the area and estimates its length at 15 or 16 feet. There are tell-tail signs that the snake has been in the area he said, including evidence of the snake “sliding” through the leaves and dirt near the shore and lake weeds matted down to look like bedding, hidden in a large storm water drainage pipe.
“This is the problem with people who own snakes and don’t research what they’re getting into,” said Andrejcak who has a degree in vertebrae zoology. “This causes invasive species, legislation and I wish people would just stop.”