Field Herping Laws and Equipment

In an ideal scenario, one would always have the appropriate equipment.  However, sometimes that's not always possible--I often find reptiles when I'm not specifically looking for them and therefore am unprepared to "do anything about it," such as capture them for a closer look, take notes, or even take a picture.

Planned "field herping" outings can be more productive if you have the following equipment (I've tried to list them in order of importance):

License/Permit | Field Guides | Camera | Field Hooks/Tongs | Flashlights

If you're looking for herping techniques, click here.


Letter for TX Road Cruisers

NEW for 2004:  The above email from TX Parks & Wildlife is valuable to carry in your vehicle if you plan on road-cruising Texas.  Click here or click the image for a larger, printable-size version (274KB).

For more clarification on this policy from TPWD's Chief of Law Enforcement, click here.

The Appropriate License/Permit:  Many people don't even consider this aspect, as reptiles aren't typically held in the same regard as "big game."  However, most states and countries regulate the capture of their reptile species, even if you plan on releasing them immediately after taking a photo.  In some cases, even "pursuing" or "stalking" a reptile (for example, to get closer for a photograph) is considered "hunting" and requires a license.

Doing things "the right way" by purchasing a license or permit is critical for many reasons.  First and foremost (as far as most people are concerned), it keeps you from getting fined or jailed for poaching.  Even more important, from a wildlife management standpoint, the monies collected from the sale of licenses funds the governmental agencies' wildlife conservation programs (which receive little to no financial support from general tax revenue).

A quick search on the World Wide Web for "department natural resources" or "wildlife regulations" for the state or country in question will usually turn up the pertinent licensing information.  You will also find the specific regulations regarding reptiles (usually under "nongame species") such as bag limits and restrictions on individual species.  I have listed what I could find online regarding reptile regulations for the United States (by individual state) in the columns at right.

Be sure to plan ahead; some permitting processes can take several weeks and may require completion of a Hunter Education course.

Some states and countries (such as Australia) may forbid any capture of native reptiles by non-residents.  Please respect such restrictions and capture only with film.  If in doubt, call ahead and inquire about local regulations and permits.

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Links to Herping Law Info

NOTE:  These links are to information provided by each state's applicable agency.  Check the currency of the information.  Links presented here may not be authoritative and may be superseded by newer information.  IF YOU HAVE AN UPDATED LINK, PLEASE CONTACT ME (any email addressed to the domain) and I will update the info presented here.

No herp regs listed!
PDF format; scroll to bottom of page 24
PDF format
PDF format; section 5.05 for amphibians and 5.60 for reptiles.
PDF format; scroll to page 2 for game reptiles
PDF format; scroll to bottom of page 21
PDF format; scroll to page 8 under "protected species"
PDF format; scroll to page 21
PDF format; see p4 and p6
Scroll to Section 3.(7)--thanks to James Blair of the KHS for the link!
Herp Society Link
PDF format; scroll to page 6
PDF format; scroll to page 13
Scroll to bottom
PDF format
PDF format; see pp7-9
PDF format; scroll to page 45
PDF format
PDF format; scroll to page 14
HTML version
Rhode Island
PDF format; scroll to page 29
PDF format; rules vary depending on location--scroll entire document
PDF format; scroll to page 10 under "Bait"
PDF format; scroll to section G3.0
PDF format; scroll to page 3 under "Gigging"
PDF format
Field Guides: Try to find a good field guide as specific as possible for the area you'll be herping.  There are a couple of guides that cover the entire United States, for example, but if you're primarily going to be herping only a few states, there are many excellent state and regional guides available.  Click here for a short list of field guides I own and recommend (some are better than others, though).  By clicking through to Amazon from my page, I will receive a percentage of the sales price (transparent to you; it doesn't cost you any more than normal) which helps to justify all the time I spend maintaining this site!  Thanks in advance!

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Cameras:  The enjoyment of observing reptiles in their natural surroundings is rewarding in itself, but having a photographic record of your experiences provides the opportunity to share your finds with others (as I've done on this site, and many others do as well).

If you are in the market for a new(er) camera, consider a digital camera for its ease of editing and posting online, as well as the freedom to take lots of pictures and not worry about film, discarding the "bad" shots and choosing to print only the best ones.

Other important features include a decent zoom capability (as many reptiles won't allow you to approach closer than a few yards) and a variable-intensity flash (so you can "turn it down" to avoid washing out close-up shots of reptiles at night).

I use a Canon PowerShot G2 (the G3 is the current iteration) which I've had since August 2002.  While I don't have a separate zoom lens, its 4-megapixel resolution allows me to crop the pictures down to the item of interest and still end up with a large, clear image.

Also consider the use of a video camera.  This is useful for capturing interesting behaviors, locomotion, etc. or even for recording footage in the hopes of grabbing a still image later (I've done that on several of my Reptiles pages here).  I've had a Sony DCR-TRV820 (linked DCR-TRV350 is comparable) since 2000, which records a digital signal onto Hi-8mm tape.  It has a FireWire output which allows me to edit the footage and grab stills on my computer.  While the resolution isn't as good as that of my camera, it allows me to get shots I'd otherwise miss.

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Field Hooks and/or Tongs:  These come in all shapes and sizes.  I currently have 3 of these implements:  a "standard" field hook, a collapsible field hook, and "Gentle Giant" tongs.

The standard field hook is advantageous because it's one piece and serves three purposes:  as a hook for pinning or lifting snakes, as an implement for flipping artificial cover, and as a walking stick/brace.

The collapsible hook basically functions like the standard field hook, but it telescopes down to a small size which makes it convenient for travel (fits in a backpack).  The main drawback is that it's not quite as sturdy for use in pinning.

The "Gentle Giant" tongs (shown at right) are great.  The contact surface is wide, which spreads the pressure over more of a snake's body as compared to the traditional, narrow "back breaker" tongs.  I have the model that folds in half which helps in travel.

I get my equipment from Midwest, and you should too!  Why?  If you purchase from them using the link here, I will get a small percentage for referring you, which will help offset my expenses in running this site.  It doesn't cost you any more to do this, and it would be greatly appreciated.  Also, they have a wide variety of reptile-related products and I am very satisfied with my own purchases from them.


Gentle Giant Tongs in Action


Potato Rake:  As odd as it may sound, a potato rake (also known as a tined cultivator) is an excellent field herping tool.  It is primarily used for flipping ground cover, and can also be used to rake through leave litter to find specimens.  The wooden handle of the rake gives it excellent rigidity, and the multiple tines make it easier to flip objects than by using a field hook (more stability afforded by the tines).  Potato rakes can be purchased at most gardening or home supply stores.

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Potato Rake
Flashlights:  If you do any night herping, a flashlight is essential.  Everyone has their favorite, including some specially-made "rigs" for illuminating road cuts.  Personally, I do well enough with more of a standard (and cheaper!) flashlight.  I use flashlights powered by a lantern battery instead of "C" or "D" cells.  My current flashlight is an Eveready two-way flashlight/lantern.  It provides a good spotlight capability and converts to an area lantern for general illumination.

I also have a headlamp--nothing fancy, just a basic Eveready Waterproof Headlamp.  I've found I don't use it as much as the basic handheld variety--I feel a little self-conscious wearing it!

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