Stray cats and runaway dogs are the types of rescues you would expect from the Animal Control Officer (and yes, sometimes, even bears). But last Tuesday, it was a copperhead snake that surprised animal control officers — the same venomous kind that bit a Paterson man last Saturday.
“We never know what adventure awaits us when the phone rings on any given day,” said Montclair ACO Michele Shiber. “Last Tuesday was rather special because we got a call for a copperhead snake which is a rarity for the Montclair area.”
In New Jersey, copperheads are found mainly in the northern portion of the state in the New Jersey/New York border area and in parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, and Somerset Counties. They may also be found in the Palisades in Bergen County.*
Animal Control had the caller send a photo of the snake for visual confirmation and once it was positively identified as a northern copperhead, ACOs rushed to the scene — Upper Montclair Plaza — to keep people from interacting with the snake and to prevent its escape.
The Animal Control officers carefully captured the snake using a net and a pair of snake tongs, then placed it into a locking plastic container. Upon returning to the Shelter they contacted the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife (NJDF&W).
“Because we have no idea from where the snake originated, NJDF&W will transfer it to an organization that will use it for educational purposes,” said Shiber. “Relocation of the snake to a natural habitat is not permitted because of the risk of disease transference to the new location and to resident snakes in that area. Additionally, if it is a snake that was kept as a pet (which is illegal in NJ without a specific permit from the State, as per NJ Admin Code Title 7, Chapter 25-4.7, 25-4.8 and 25-4.9), it would not be able to fend for itself and hunt for food as a wild snake normally would.”
Residents did the right thing by contacting Animal Control and keeping the snake within eyesight but out of reach until ACOs arrived on the scene, said Shiber.
Montclair Township Animal Control Officers are available 24/7 by calling the Animal Shelter during business hours 973-744-8600 or after hours by calling the Montclair Police Department non-emergency number 973-744-1234.