Fears for escaped boa over winter

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service said it does not think a boa constrictor on the loose in Fletcher warrants a public warning and the reptile is unlikely to survive the winter cold.

The illegal exotic snake was photographed about two weeks ago in Fletcher and was even sighted as recently as Monday at Maryland.

It is thought the red-tailed boa was either illegally dumped or escaped.

A National Parks spokeswoman said it was informed of the initial sighting and was liaising with the Native Animal Trust Fund.

‘‘[The service] is concerned by reports that the animal is in the wild,’’ she said.

‘‘It is unlikely to survive with the onset of the colder winter weather outside of a captive environment where heat is provided.’’

Hunter-based Native Animal Trust Wildlife Rescue Service president Audrey Koosmen said they had received numerous reports of sightings of the snake.

Some were from as far away as Port Stephens, but those people were likely to have mistaken another snake for a boa, she said.

National Parks’ stance contrasts to that of snake catchers who have seen the boa and are concerned it could potentially harm residents’ pets or even an unattended small child.

Boa constrictors have not been associated with human deaths but overseas other types of constrictors have been.

The Canberra-based Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre released a report in 2011 based on customs data that found more than 230 boa constrictors were seized, surrendered or stolen in NSW and Queensland over the past decade and said the animal had serious ‘‘pest potential’’.

It found the boa constrictor has ‘‘a very high climate match to the northern half of Australia and has the potential to harm people, and domestic and native animals that may become prey’’.

Snake catcher Peter Bryant said the snakes constricted small prey such as rats to death.

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