Biosecurity officers were combing a western Sydney suburb where an adult boa constrictor was believed to be “at large” on Monday after the discovery of a huge, “freshly shed” snake skin.
It was feared the dangerous snake was roaming the Cascades Estate residential complex in Silverdale.
The skin was found at a construction site on Wednesday and the New South Wales government wrote to residents on Friday to warn them.
The South American snake, which grows to an average of 3m – is illegal to keep in Australia outside zoos, and can kill people and animals by strangulation.
“NSW government has reason to believe there is an adult boa constrictor snake ‘at large’ in or around the Cascades Estate,” the letter said.
“A freshly shed snake skin was found at a property on Torumba Circuit on 9 October 2019, NSW government is in the process of trying to locate and capture the animal and is requesting the residents be on the lookout for it and to report any sightings.”
On Monday, the government said biosecurity officers were “currently working to locate and capture the animal”.
Residents were told to “observe and, if possible, photograph the animal. If it is moving try and watch where it goes. Do not make contact with the animal.”
The NSW Department of Primary Industries said the boa constrictor was “considered to be one of the world’s largest snake species”.
The snake is not venomous, but constricts and suffocates its prey.
The constrictor is classified as a threat to humans, especially small children, as well as pets. They are native to central America and carry viruses that are fatal to native snakes, who do not have resistance.
If officers found the snake, they would employ a licensed snake catcher to snare it and transport it to a specialist veterinarian, the government said.
“The snake will be examined to determine where it came from, how long it has been in the area, what it has been eating, whether it’s carrying any diseases of concern and whether it has produced offspring,” they said.