State to allow collection of non-venomous native reptiles, amphibians

The state is making it easier for the public to catch and keep reptiles, such as this gopher snake. Photo courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Spotting a lizard sunning itself on a rock adds a bit of excitement to any outdoor adventure. For some people, collecting amphibians or reptiles that they find in the wild is a popular activity. On June 6, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a new rule that makes it easier to do just that.

Utah is home to approximately 61 native species of reptiles and 15 native species of amphibians. The rule change will simplify the process for the public to collect, possess and breed non-venomous native reptiles and amphibians caught in the wild. It will also allow for the sale of captive-born reptiles and amphibians, according to a press release from the board.

Previously, people interested in collecting, possessing and/or breeding native amphibians and reptiles were required to obtain a certificate of registration. The process could be complicated, lengthy and sometimes expensive. And most of the highly sought-after native species in Utah were previously categorized as either “controlled” or “prohibited.”

“This proposal was a result of reptile and amphibian enthusiasts wanting easier access, bag limits and a permit to be able to use this natural resource,” DWR native species coordinator Drew Dittmer said. “They wanted to be able to take and engage with these species in a sustainable way and wanted to simplify the process and make it more approachable for the public.”

However, some requirements must be met before people can begin collecting. People interested in taking home a non-venomous reptile or amphibian found in the wild are required to take an online education course, which would cover the laws, safety considerations and conservation ethics. The education course certificate is valid for three years. People are also required to obtain a permit online.

Under the new rule, people are still not allowed to collect sensitive species, including the Gila monster, Mojave desert tortoise, Arizona toad, Western boreal toad, relict leopard frog and Columbia spotted frog.

There is also a set bag limit for the number of reptiles and amphibians that could be collected. The bag limit categories vary from species to species and include the following options:

  • Limited: two yearly bag limit with four total in a person’s possession at one time.
  • Standard: three yearly bag limit with nine total in a person’s possession at one time.
  • Expanded: 25 yearly limit with 50 total in a person’s possession at one time.

While this new rule is similar to laws that other states have in place, the DWR is including a unique rule that requires people who collect reptiles and amphibians to report online where they found the animals. The person would be required to report this information within 72 hours of capturing the reptile or amphibian. This will help biologists study the activity and distribution of many of the native species.

“There isn’t a good way right now to know how many there are of several of these species,” Dittmer said. “The online community science reporting is exciting and is the biggest thing I’m looking forward to with this new proposal. There are people out there who already monitor reptiles and amphibians in their spare time, so requiring them to report it will give us data that will help us better manage these species.”

This new rule will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, according to the press release.

If someone is interested in collecting and possessing venomous reptiles like rattlesnakes, they are still required to get a certificate of registration. There is also an age requirement of 18 years old. However, even with a certificate of registration, people are required to follow their city ordinances to make sure they can legally keep venomous reptiles. And non-native venomous species are still not allowed in Utah without obtaining a variance from the Utah Wildlife Board.