A Day in the Life of an Animal Control Officer

Montclair Animal Control officers were called out to rescue a copperhead snake.
Posted on 06/14/2019
A Day in the Life of an Animal Control Officer

The Animal Control Officer (ACO) job goes well beyond ensuring the welfare of puppies and kittens. Sometimes there’s a call to rescue a less than usual critter encountered in a day’s work. Like a copperhead snake.

“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 in the Upper Montclair Plaza parking lot 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 Ms. 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 Ms. 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.

Northern copperhead Photo by Mike Muller for NJ DEP

*Source: www.conservewildlifenj.org