UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair residents had an unusual discovery last week when a copperhead was sighted in an Upper Montclair plaza parking lot.

When Montclair Animal Control Officer Michele Shiber got the call that residents spotted a venomous snake, she sprung into action.

“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.”

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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, or the Palisades in Bergen County, but not usually in Montclair, officials stated.

When the caller sent a photo of the snake for visual confirmation, the ACOs rushed to the scene in the Upper Montclair Plaza parking lot. They 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, added Ms. Shiber.

According to reports, officials have stated that this is the second copperhead sighting in a week. Recent reports indicated that a Paterson man was bitten on the hand by one last Saturday.

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