A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Information About the California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations
as they Pertain to Hunting and Collecting Native California
Reptiles and Amphibians - Valid March 1, 2019 - February 29, 2020


(Californians Turn in Poachers & Polluters)

is a California Department of Fish and Wildlife confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide Fish and Wildlife with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters.

Anyone who witnesses or is aware of a poaching or polluting violation is encouraged to call a toll-free number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:


or to submit anonymous tips by texting CALTIP  followed by a space and the message to 847411 (tip411). You can also use Tip411 with the CALTIP  smartphone App available for free on the CalTIP website.

Disinfection of Field Equipment
to Minimize Risk of Spread of Chytridiomycosis and Ranavirus.

Northeast PARC

observation link

Nothing you read here should be considered to be legal advice
or a legal interpretation of Local, State, or Federal laws.

This is only intended to be a summarized description of my interpretation of the current sport fishing regulations regarding California's reptiles and amphibians. Some of the information contained here, including links, may have changed. Consult the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) (Formerly the California Department of Fish and Game - CDFG) website for the most recent and most complete information.

The information below pertains to the private pursuit and collection of native reptiles and amphibians in California. It does not pertain to selling or trading native or non-native reptiles and amphibians. For information regarding captive propagation of native reptiles go to the CDFW website and read the Native Reptile Captive Propagation Laws and Regulations pdf.

Differences in Common and Scientific Names From Those Used Here

You should be aware that the names used here and by other web sites and field guides sometimes differ from those used by the CDFW. This means, that in order to follow the law, you should be familiar with the names used by the CDFW and consult the CDFW (not me) with any questions.

This year it appears that many of the common and scientific names have been changed from how they were listed in the regulations in 2017 and 2018 back to the names that were used before then.

2019 - 2020 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations  Effective March 1, 2019 - February 29, 2020

These regulations are only good for a one year period. The link above should direct you to the most current California state regulations. If this page is not updated by the time these regulations expire, go to the CDFW web site to find the correct information for the current annual regulations.

I have reproduced the parts of the regulations that pertain to reptiles and amphibians below.
I have added some emphasis and re-formatted them to make them easier to read online.

The Lists below show which herps may be taken with a license. If a herp is not on the list, it can't be taken.

. Amphibians

Only the following reptiles may be taken under the authority of a sport fishing license, subject to the restrictions in this section.  No amphibians may be taken from ecological reserves designated by the commission in Section 630 or from state parks, or national parks or monuments.

(b) Limit: The limit for each of the species listed below is four, unless otherwise provided. Limit, as used in this section, means daily bag and possession limit.


(1) Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)

(2) Rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa)

(3) Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile)

(4) Black salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus):
See Special Closure (f )(1)

(5) Clouded salamander (Aneides ferreus)

(6) Arboreal salamander (Aneides lugubris)

(7) California slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus)

(8) Pacific slender salamander (Batrachoseps pacificus)

[It appears that the CDFW has gone back to using Batrachoseps pacificus in the older understanding of the name, which would make it the Garden Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps major and not the Channel Islands Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps pacificus.]

(9) Dunn’s salamander (Plethodon dunni)

(10) Ensatina salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzii)

Frogs and Toads

(11) Western toad (Bufo boreas)

(12) Woodhouse’s toad (Bufo woodhouseii)

(13) Red-spotted toad (Bufo punctatus)

(14) Great Plains toad (Bufo cognatus)

(15) Great Basin spadefoot toad (Spea (Scaphiopus) intermontana)

(16) California chorus frog (Pseudacris (Hyla) cadaverina)

(17) Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris (Hyla) regilla)

(18) Southern leopard frog (Rana Lithobates) sphenocephalus):
Limit: No limit.

(19) Rio Grande leopard frog (Rana (Lithobates) berlandieri):
Limit: No limit.

(20) Bullfrog (Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana):
Limit: No limit.


(c) Open season: All year. The season closures in Chapter 3 (District Trout and Salmon District General Regulations and Special Regulations) do not apply to fishing for amphibians with methods other than hook and line (see sections 7.00 and 7.50(a)(2)).

(d) Hours: Amphibians may be taken at any time of day or night.

(e) Methods of take:

(1) Amphibians may be taken only by hand, hand-held dip net, or hook and line, except bullfrogs may also be taken by lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow, or fishing tackle.

(2) It is unlawful to use any method or means of collecting that involves breaking apart of rocks, granite akes, logs, or other shelters in or under which amphibians may be found.

(f ) Special closures:

(1) No black salamanders (Aneides flavipunctatus) may be taken in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

5.60. Reptiles

(a) Only the following reptiles may be taken under the authority of a sport fishing license, subject to the restrictions in this section. No sport fishing license is required for the sport take of any rattlesnake, but bag and possession limits do apply. No reptiles shall be taken from ecological reserves designated by the commission in Section 630 or from state parks, or national parks or monuments.

(b) Limit: The limit for each of the species listed below is two, unless otherwise provided.
Limit, as used in this section, means daily bag and possession limit.


(1) Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta):
     Limit: No limit.

(2) Pond slider (Pseudemys (Trachemys) scripta):
      Limit: No limit.

(3) Spiny softshell (Trionyx (Apalone) spiniferus (spinifera)):
      Limit: No limit.


(4) Western banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus), except San Diego banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus abbotti):
See Special Closure (f )(1)

(5) Desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis)

(6) Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus (ater))

(7) Zebra-tailed lizard (Callisaurus draconoides)

(8) Desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister)

(9) Granite spiny lizard (Sceloporus orcutti)

(10) Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis):
Limit: Species No. 10-14 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(11) Sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus):
Limit: Species No. 10-14 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(12) Side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana):
Limit: Species No. 10-14 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(13) Western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus):
Limit: Species No. 10-14 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(14) Desert night lizard (Xantusia vigilis), except Xantusia vigilis sierrae:
See Special Closure (f )(2):
Limit: Species in subsections (10) through (14) have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(15) Long-tailed brush lizard (Urosaurus graciosus)

(16) Tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)

(17) Small-scaled lizard (Urosaurus microscutatus)

(18) Desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)

(19) Short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglassii)

(20) Great basin collared lizard (Crotaphytus bicintores)

(21) Banded rock lizard (Petrosaurus mearnsi)

(22) Baja California collared lizard (Crotaphytus vestigum)

(23) Long-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii)

(24) Gilbert’s skink (Eumeces (Plestion) gilberti)

(25) Western whiptail (Cnemidophorus (Apidoscelis) tigris)

(26) Southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)

(27) Northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea)


(28) Rubber boa (Charina bottae), except southern rubber boa (Charina bottae umbratica):
See Special Closure (f )(3)

(29) Rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata)

(30) Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus), except Diadophis punctatus regalis:
See Special Closure (f )(4)

(31) Sharp-tailed snakes (Contia spp.)

(32) Spotted leaf-nosed snake (Phyllorhynchus decurtatus)

(33) Racer (Coluber constrictor)

(34) Coachwhip (Masticophis (Coluber) flagellum), except San Joaquin Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum ruddocki):
See Special Closure (f )(5)

(35) Striped whipsnake (Masticophis (Coluber) taeniatus)

(36) California whipsnake (striped racer) (Masticophis (Coluber) lateralis), except Alameda whipsnake (Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus):
See Special Closure (f )(6)

(37) Western (Desert) patch-nosed snake (Salvadora hexalepis), except Salvadora hexalepis virgultea:
See Special Closure (f )(7).

(38) Glossy snake (Arizona elegans), except Arizona elegans occidentalis:
See Special Closure (f )(8)

(39) Gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus):
Limit: Four (4)

(40) Common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula):
Limit: Four (4)

(41) California mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata), except San Diego mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata pulchra) and San Bernardino mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata parvirubra):
Limit: One (1).
See Special Closure: (f )(9)

(42) Long-nosed snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)

(43) Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), except San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) and South Coast garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sp.):
See Special Closure (f )(10)

(44) Terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans)

(45) Western aquatic (Sierra) garter snake (Thamnophis couchii)

(46) Pacific coast aquatic garter snake (Thamnophis atratus)

(47) Northwestern garter snake (Thamnophis ordinoides)

(48) Checkered garter snake (Thamnophis marcianus)

49) Variable ground snake (Sonora semiannulata)

(50) Western shovel-nosed snake (Chionactis occipitalis)

(51) California (Western) black-headed snake (Tantilla planiceps)

(52) Southwestern (Smith’s) black-headed snake (Tantilla hobartsmithi)

(53) Lyre snakes (Trimorphodon spp.)

(54) Night snakes (Hypsiglena spp.)

(55) Western blind snake (Southwestern threadsnake) (Leptotyphlops (Rena) humilis)


[As already stated above, the daily bag and possession limit for each of the species listed below is two, except for Crotalus ruber.]

(56) Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)

(57) Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)

(58) Western rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridus (oreganus) spp.)

(59) Speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchelli)

(60) Sidewinders (Crotalus cerastes spp.)

(61) Panamint rattlesnake (Crotalus stephensi)

(62) Red diamond rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber):
Limit: Zero (0)   [This means that you cannot collect or kill this species of rattlesnake without authorization.]


(c) Open season: All year.

(d) Hours: Reptiles may be taken at any time of day or night.

(e) Methods of take:

(1) Reptiles may be taken only by hand, except as provided in subsections (e) (2) and (3) below, or by the following hand-operated devices:

(A) Lizard nooses.
(B) Snake tongs.
(C) Snake hooks.

(2) Rattlesnakes may be taken by any method.

(3) Turtles may be taken by hook and line. Fishing methods described in Section 2.00 apply to the take of spiny softshell turtles, slider turtles and painted turtles.

(4) It is unlawful to use any method or means of collecting that involves breaking apart of rocks, granite flakes, logs or other shelters in or under which reptiles may be found.

(f) Special Closures:

(1) No geckos (Coleonyx variegatus) may be taken in San Diego County south and west of Highway 79 to its junction with County Road S-2, and south and west of County Road S-2 to the eastern San Diego County border.

(2) No rubber boas (Charina bottae or Charina umbratica) may be taken in Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

(3) No night lizards (Xantusia vigilis) may be taken in Kern County.

(4) No ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus) may be taken in San Bernardino or Inyo counties.

(5) No coachwhips (Masticophis (Coluber) flagellum) may be taken in the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Stanislaus, Tulare.

(6) No California whipsnakes (striped racer) (Masticophis (Coluber) lateralis) may be taken in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

(7) No Western (desert) patch-nosed snakes (Salvadora hexalepis) may be taken in the following counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

(8) No glossy snakes (Arizona elegans) may be taken in the following counties: Alameda, Fresno, Imperial (west of Hwy 111), Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside (southwest of Hwy 111 and I-10), San Benito, San Bernardino (West of I-215 and Hwy 138), San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Tulare.

(9) No California mountain kingsnakes (Lampropeltis zonata) may be taken in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties.

(10) No common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) may be taken in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and Ventura counties.

Some Basic Rules and Regulations (pertaining to California's native reptiles and amphibians.) Some of these are listed under "General Provisions and Definitions" in the regulations.

A current California Freshwater Sport Fishing License is needed by any resident or non-resident 16 years of age or older to take, or collect, reptiles and amphibians in California.


Any person who is 16 years of age or older must have a sport fishing license to take any kind of fish, mollusk, invertebrate, amphibian or crustacean in California, except for persons angling from a public pier in ocean or bay waters. A sport fishing license is required to take reptiles, except for rattlesnakes."

• Fail to exhibit, on demand, all fish, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles and any device or apparatus capable of being used to take them, to any peace officer or authorized CDFW employee (FGC 2012);

Definition of "Bag and Possession Limit"


No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean named in these regulations may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized; regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved. Exceptions: See Sections 7.00, 7.50(a), 27.60(c), and 195, Title 14, CCR.

Definition of "Bullfrog"


Includes only Rana catesbeiana.  [Shown on this web site as Lithobates catesbeiana.]

[You can buy a commercial fishing license, but there is no commercial license for herps. The Commercial Fishing regulations do not apply to herps. While there are no limits to the take of Bullfrogs, and you can buy live bullfrogs and bullfrog meat in markets (for example, some markets in Chinatown, San Francisco) I don't find any mention of the legality of commercial take of Bullfrogs in California, so I don't know from where these commercial frogs come. I presume they are imported or bred.]

1.35 Closed or Closure

Refers to waters or areas closed to all fishing [herping] unless otherwise authorized.

Definition of "Native Reptiles and Amphibians"

Native reptiles and amphibians are those subspecies, and species, including all color phases, of the classes Reptilia and Amphibia indigenous to California. This definition includes all specimens regardless of their origin even if they were produced in captivity.

Definition of "Take"

1.80. TAKE.

Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so.

[According to Fish and Game Code Section 86 "Take" means hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill."]

Possession and Display of License

Herpers no longer have to display their sport fishing license on their outer clothing above the waist. However, their sport fishing license must still be in their immediate possession.

"Every person, while engaged in taking any sh, amphibian or reptile, shall have a valid sport shing license on their person in their immediate possession except when diving as provided in Section 7145 of the Fish and Game Code. (CCR T-14, Section 700)"

(See the California Fish and Game Commission web site for exceptions, such as scientific collecting permits.)

Many species of California reptiles and amphibians cannot be collected without special permits. You are responsible for knowing the current regulations regarding reptiles and amphibians if you plan to catch or collect them. Consult the California Fish and Wildlife Department if you have any questions about this. Be aware that there are also specific regulations governing properties such as regional, county, state, and national parks, and wildlife preserves. A valid fishing license may not give you permission to catch or collect herps in these areas.

From Native Reptile Captive Propagation Laws and Regulations (pdf file)

California Code of Regulations, Title 14 Excerpts

§40. General Provisions Relating to Native Reptiles and Amphibians.

(a) General Prohibition   It is unlawful to capture, collect, intentionally kill or injure, possess, purchase, propagate, sell, transport, import or export any native reptile or amphibian, or part thereof, except as provided in this chapter, Chapter 2 of this subdivision relating to sportfishing and frogging, sections 650, 670.7, or 783 of these regulations, or as otherwise provided in the Fish and Game Code or these regulations.

(b) For the purposes of this section, “intentionally kill or injure” does not include death or injury that occurs incidental to an otherwise lawful activity. This section does not prohibit the capture, temporary collection or temporary possession of native reptiles and amphibians done to avoid mortality or injury in connection with such activities. The live capture and release of native reptiles and amphibians done to avoid such death or injury may occur only with the department’s written approval.

(c) Except for dried or processed reptile skins, it is unlawful to display, in any place of business where pets or other animals are sold, native reptiles or amphibians which cannot lawfully be sold.

(d) Progeny resulting from pregnant native reptiles or amphibians collected from the wild must be transferred to another person or to a scientific or educational institution within 45 days of birth or hatching. Persons receiving such progeny shall comply with the bag and possession limits specified in sections 5.05 and 5.60.

(e) Reptiles or amphibians which have been in captivity, including wild-caught and captively-bred individuals or offspring, shall not be released into the wild without the written approval of the department.

Restricted Species Laws and Regulations (Reptiles and Amphibians)

Other species besides native species are also restricted from importation, transportation, and possession. You can download Restricted Species Regulations Manual 671 to find information regarding restricted species on the CDFW website.

Below is a copy of the information regarding reptiles and amphibians.

§671. Importation, Transportation and Possession of Live Restricted Animals. (a) It shall be unlawful to import, transport, or possess live animals restricted in subsection (c) below except under permit issued by the department. Permits may be issued by the department as specified herein and for purposes designated in Section 671.1 subject to the conditions and restrictions designated by the department. Except for mammals listed in Fish and Game Code Section 3950 or live aquatic animals requiring a permit pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 2271, no permit is required by this section for any animal being imported, transported, or possessed pursuant to any other permit issued by the department. Cities and counties may also prohibit possession or require a permit for these and other species not requiring a state permit.

(b) The commission has determined the below listed animals are not normally domesticated in this state. Mammals listed to prevent the depletion of wild populations and to provide for animal welfare are termed "welfare animals", and are designated by the letter "W". Those species listed because they pose a threat to native wildlife, the agriculture interests of the state or to public health or safety are termed "detrimental animals" and are designated by the letter "D". The department shall include the list of welfare and detrimental wild animals as part of DFG MANUAL NO. 671 (2/25/92) IMPORTATION, TRANSPORTATION AND POSSESSION OF RESTRICTED SPECIES, to be made available to all permittees and other interested individuals.

(c) Restricted species include:

… … … ...

(3) Class Amphibia -Frogs, Toads, Salamanders

(A) Family Bufonidae -Toads:
Bufo marinus,
Bufo paracnemis
Bufo horribilis
(Giant toad or marine toad group) and
all other large toads from Mexico and Central and South America-(D).

(B) Family Pipidae -Tongueless Toads:

1. Genus Xenopus (Clawed frog)-(D).

(C) Family Ambystomatidae-Mole Salamanders:

1. Genus Ambystoma (tiger salamanders) (D).

(D) Family Leptodactylidae -Neotropical Frogs:

1. Eleutherodactylus coqui -Commom Coqui or Coqui frog (D).

(7) Class Reptilia -Reptiles

(A) Order Crocodilia -Crocodiles, Caimans, Alligators and Gavials: All species (D).

(B) Family Chelyridae -Snapping Turtles: All species (D).

(C) Family Elapidae -Cobras, Coral Snakes, Mambas, Kraits, etc.: All species (D).

(D) Family Viperidae -Adders and Vipers: All species (D).

(E) Family Crotalidae - Pit Vipers: All species (D), except
Crotalus viridis
(Western rattlesnake),
Crotalus atrox
(Western diamondback rattlesnake),
Crotalus ruber (red diamondback rattlesnake),
Crotalus scutulatus
(Mojave rattlesnake),
Crotalus mitchelli
(speckled rattlesnake) and
Crotalus cerastes
(Sidewinder) not restricted.

(F) Family Colubridae -Colubrids:

1. Dispholidus typus (Boomslang) (D).
2. Theoltornis kitlandii (Bird or vine snake) (D).
3. All species of genus Nerodia (watersnakes) (D).

(G) Family Helodermatidae:

1. Heloderma suspectum suspectum (reticulate Gila monster) (D).

Comments and Opinions

Do You Need a License Just to Photograph Herps?

Short answer:

Yes, if you intend to catch them.

Long answer:

Most field herpers are not content just to watch the herps they find. They want to catch herps even if they plan to release them. Sometimes that is the only way to identify what you see. Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) officers have told me that all herpers need a license if they plan to pick up or handle a herp for any reason, including photography, even though they don't plan to collect it. The reason they give makes sense: if you have an animal in your possession, even if it's only temporarily, and a law enforcement officer sees you with the animal in your possession, it can appear to the officer that you are collecting the animal. If you don't have a license, it will be up to you to convince the officer that your intension was to release the animal where it was found. Most people who are collecting an animal illegally will always lie and tell an officer that they were not going to keep it, that they are just taking pictures of it, and this makes it difficult for the officer to determine if you are also lying.

You surely don't need a license to photograph or watch herps that you encounter without actively hunting for, such as a snake you see crossing a road, or frogs you see in a pond, or lizards basking on rocks. But do you need a license to pursue herps using methods such as road cruising, flipping rocks and boards, shining lights at night, or just walking around and looking, even if you don't plan to handle them? it is reasonable to assume that you do not need a license if you do not intend to handle herps you search for. However, you are required by law to have a license to "take" any herp: "A current California Freshwater Sport Fishing License is needed by any resident or non-resident 16 years of age or older to take, or collect, reptiles and amphibians in California". And the CDFW definition of "take" is this: Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so. By my interpretaion (and I'm not a lawyer) you do need a license to search for (hunt or pursue) reptiles and amphibians. I have seen Fish and Game officers checking car occupants for licenses in areas where there are a lot cars driving at night looking for snakes, but I don't know whether or not they fined anyone who says they're looking for herps but not collecting them (or only looking for rattlesnakes, invertebrates, owls, or any other nocturnal creatures for which no license is necessary.) Whether or not your activities are observation only or are "pursuit" or "collecting" is subject to the interpretation of each enforcement officer, should one happen to see you interacting with a herp. I doubt that one would ticket you unless you are in possession of an animal, but it looks like they do have that option.

Since the price of a license for California residents is relatively cheap, my recommendaion is that you play it safe and always buy a license if you intend to search for herps whether or not you intend to catch or collect them, even if you plan to release them where they were found. Then you can concentrate on herping instead of worrying about the interpretation of confusing legal questions. I am willing to bet that almost nobody who herps will agree that this is reasonable. Instead, they will argue how absurd and unfair it is to require someone who only wants to look for and photograph herps without touching them to pay for that privilege. And I would not disagree with them. Many also would argue that a license should not be necessary to catch, photograph, and release herps, but I have explained the reasons for this need already.

So why are herps treated so differently from birds and mammals? Birders don't need a license to hunt for birds, neither do whale watchers, or any other wildlife watchers, and they are all "pursuing" wildlife. But there is no definition of "take" that includes "hunt" and "pursue" that I can find in any of the hunting regulations applying to any type of game and non-game birds or mammals. These extra restrictions on pursuing herps might be derived at least partly by the false stigma long associated with herpers, even though unregulated commercial collection of native herps ended in 1977, and bag limits were developed in the early 1980s. But due to constant reports in the press of herp smuggling and illegal trafficing in herps it is generally assumed that anyone pursuing or possessing a herp is doing so in order to collect it whether legally or not, and that most herps are in danger of disappearing due to over-collection. These common misconceptions are not always true and the hobby of herping has suffered because of them. 

Herp Stamps

In the past, some herpers have lobbied for a herp stamp or a herping license so that the state can know how many licenses are purchased for the collection (or photographing) of herps. Until such a system is established, the CDFW has no way of knowing how many licenses they are selling to herpers so they can allocate some funding to herp-related issues. (I'm not sure what those would be exactly, but it could be spending more money on research and herp policies. It might also fund more enforcement agents out in the field.) A stamp or special license would also allow some reporting of how many herps are collected. As it is now, the CDFW has no way of knowing how many animals are taken. Knowing that could help to change how they make their allowable take list.


Fish and Game Code 7149.3. - ARTICLE 3. Sport Fishing Licenses [7145. - 7155.] written by the California Legislature and signed by the State Governor, makes it the law that a license is not needed to collect rattlesnakes:

"Notwithstanding Section 7149, a sport fishing license is not required for any resident to take any rattlesnake (genus Crotalus or Sistrurus)."   [The inclusion of Sistrurus is not necessary since that genus is not found in California.]

Assembly Bill - AB-1387 February 22, 2019 amends this slightly:

"SEC. 12. Section 7149.3 of the Fish and Game Code is amended to read:
7149.3. Notwithstanding Section 7145, a sport fishing license is not required for a resident to take a rattlesnake (genus Crotalus or Sistrurus).

The regulations regarding reptiles (shown above) state that "No sportfishing license is required for the sport take of any rattlesnake, but bag and possession limits do apply."

As it has been explained to me by someone who works with the CDFW, this law regarding rattlesnakes was not written by CDFW, but the fish and wildlife agency enforces the law and has imposed bag and possession limits on rattlesnakes (including the California Species of Special Concern Crotalus ruber, which is listed with a "zero" bag and possession limit. This means you cannot catch, possess, or kill snakes of this species.

Some people interpret the no-license-required regulation to mean that they can collect, kill, or possess as many rattlesnakes as they want but this is not true. For all species of rattlesnakes except Crotalus ruber, the CDFW regulations show a daily bag and possession limit of "two."

My opinion is that the no-license law was passed in order to allow someone without a license to legally remove or kill a rattlesnake in a safety situation on private property in order to protect themself, their family, or their animals, without having to obtain a license first. Rattlesnakes play a valuable role in the ecosystem and they are greatly misunderstood, but they are dangerous animals that can and do occasionally cause physical harm and suffering to people and pets, and the treatment for rattlesnake envenomation can be very expensive, so rattlesnakes need to be treated differently from harmless snakes.

This law might seem to encourage the unnecessary killing of rattlesnakes, however most property owners are probably not aware that they would need a license to remove or kill rattlesnakes, if that was the law, since they do not need a license to kill other "pests" on their property such as gophers and rodents. And it's also an unfortunate fact that most people will remove or kill any kind of snake they find near their home without checking first to make sure it is dangerous, regardless of whether or not they need a license.

"Sport Take" vs. "Commercial Take"

The only place I have found the term "sport take" in the sport fishing regulations is in regard to rattlesnakes.
"Sport take" is used in contrast to "commercial take" in other documents regarding fish and waterfowl.
I presume that "sport take" is used regarding rattlesnakes to emphasize that commercial take of rattlesnakes is prohibited. Commercial take of other herps is also prohibited, but since rattlesnakes are the species of herp most likely to be taken commercially and sold for their meat and skin (besides bullfrogs) I presume that it was determined that this needed emphasis regarding rattlesnakes. Sport take might also be used to differentiated recreational take from killing or removing rattlesnakes in safety situations on private property.

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