City awaits expert for ‘Wessie’ hunt

A Westbrook resident fishes off a dock on the Presumpscot River in July, during the height of a local buzz surrounding sightings of a large snake. No sightings have since been reported, and a cryptozoologist will be combing the area. 

In late June, sightings in Westbrook of a large snake, dubbed “Wessie,” sparked a frenzy in the city and on social media.

A week after two police officers reported seeing the 10-foot-long snake near the Presumpscot River on June 29, city officials said they would be bringing an an expert to “track and identify” the creature.

A month later, the expert, now identified as a cryptozoologist, has not yet made an appearance in Westbrook, said Westbrook Police Capt. Sean Lally.

“They have yet to come out,” he said in an email Wednesday, adding that the cryptozoologist “has rescheduled twice so far but told me he expects to be out there within the next two weeks.”

Mayor Colleen Hilton said the city has not hired the cryptozoologist, but rather, he volunteered.

Cryptozoology is described as a pseudoscience studying hidden or unknown animals. The International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland features information on well-known “cryptids” like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. The name “Wessie” stemmed from the popular nickname for the Loch Ness Monster, “Nessie.”

The first sighting of the large snake was reported by a resident on Thursday, June 23. There have been no reported sightings of the Westbrook snake since the police sighting.

David Sparks, who founded Sparks’ Ark Animal Services in New Gloucester, which rehabilitates various wild animals, told the American Journal last month that he was unconvinced that a large snake has made itself at home on the river.

“I question whether it was a snake,” he said Tuesday.

Sparks, who lives along the Presumpscot River in Windham, says it’s more likely the officers saw a beaver dragging a large tree branch across the river, creating the perception that a snake had snagged the beaver. Sparks has hosted educational programs with large snakes for more than 25 years.

“I believe the people that saw it believe they saw a snake, but I just don’t think from the two reports that it was,” he said.

The sighting from the two officers was in the area of Speirs Street at approximately 3:30 a.m. One of the officers attempted to take a video, but it was too dark to see any images.

A Westbrook resident fishes off a dock on the Presumpscot River in July, during the height of a local buzz surrounding sightings of a large snake. No sightings have since been reported, and a cryptozoologist could soon be combing the area.