Field Herping Regulations
Southwestern Field Herping Association
California's regulations regarding the taking of native California amphibians and reptiles are managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). California is a large state with a great diversity of habitats, and is home to approximately 80 different species and subspecies of native amphibians, and approximately 155 different species and subspecies of native reptiles. There are also an additional 22 recognized non-native herp species, or invasive herp species, that have made California their home. It is the sole responsibility of any individual who undertakes the activity of seeking out, capturing, collecting or handling these creatures, to understand and follow the laws of the State of California.
California herp regulations are complex, and contain many special restrictions and instructions that, in many cases, are species specific. Many native California species are afforded total protection, and some are afforded protection only in specific geographical areas of the state, so it is crucial that these regulations are understood before venturing into the field. The current regulations are published as part of the 2016 - 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations. Regulations regarding Amphibians can be found on page 20. Regulations regarding Reptiles can be found on pages 22 & 23.
Before reading these regulations, it may be helpful to understand a few things about California herp laws and the way they are written. Most importantly, the California regulations do not list protected species that may not be taken, but do list those species that may be taken, and list the bag and possession limits for each. What this means is that it is illegal in California to take any species that is not on the "take list". It is also important to understand the meaning of at least two of the terms used in the regulations - "Take" and "Bag and Possession Limit"
The term "Take" is defined in Section 86 of the Fish and Game Code to mean hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill. The term "Take" should also be understood to mean handling, catch and release, detain, or the act of intentionally obstructing the free movement of an animal.
The term "Bag and Possession Limit" is defined as "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." This is to be understood that you may have only a single daily bag limit of a species in your possession at any given time, even if you collected the specimens on different days. For example, if you are on a multi-day herping trip, you cannot bag a daily limit of kingsnakes on day one, then bag another daily limit on day two, or even bag a single additional kingsnake for that matter. The law is clear - only one daily bag limit in possession at any given time.
It is also important to understand that the taxonomy used by the State within the written regulations, may in some cases conflict with the taxonomy currently in use in the scientific or academic communities. It is therefore important to err on the side of caution when identifying specimens targeted for take.
California law requires any person of the age of 16 years or older to hold a current resident or non-resident CA Freshwater Fishing License for the purpose of "taking" any species of native amphibians or reptiles. Information regarding CA Fishing Licenses, and online purchases, can be found at this website: CA Sport Fishing Licenses
Our friend Gary Nafis has gone to great lengths on his CaliforniaHerps.com website to break down and explain the California regulations as they apply to field herping in California. Gary has also assembled a list of the California species that do not appear on the "take" list in the current regulations handbook, which helps identify the species that may not be taken.
Please understand that comments you have read here, and comments you will read at CaliforniaHerps.com regarding California State regulations, are not to be considered legal advice or completely accurate interpretations of the law. It is the sole responsibility of the individual to read the regulations, understand them, and abide by them.
A copy of the current CA regulations can be accessed with this link:
Arizona is home to 25 different species of native amphibians and 107 species of native reptiles, and the regulations regarding the taking of these creatures are managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). It is the sole responsibility of any individual who undertakes the activity of seeking out, capturing, collecting or handling these creatures, to understand and follow the laws of the State of Arizona.
The 2015 & 2016 Arizona Reptile and Amphibian Regulations is a comprehensive document that includes open season dates for all amphibians and reptiles that are legal to take, describes open hunting areas, bag and possession limits, and includes references to special notes regarding the different species. The state protects 6 species of amphibians and 13 species of reptiles which are shown in the regulations as having "No Open Season", and therefore may not be taken at any time from any region of the state. The regulations also define, in detail, the legal methods of take for all "open season" species.
For the purposes of clarity, the AZGFD defines the terms "Take", "Bag limit" and "Possession limit" as follows:
Take: Pursuing, shooting, hunting, fishing, trapping, killing, capturing, snaring or netting wildlife or the placing or using of any net or other device or trap in a manner that may result in the capturing or killing of wildlife. (Logic tells us that this definition also includes the practice of catch and release, temporarily detaining, or the act of intentionally obstructing the free movement of an animal)
Bag limit: The maximum limit, in number or amount, of wildlife that may lawfully be taken by any one person during a specified period of time.
Possession limit: The maximum limit, in number or amount of wildlife, that may be possessed at one time by any one person.
Use this link to access more AZGFD Definitions
Arizona law requires residents and non-residents of the age of 10 years and older to have a valid AZ Hunting License or combination Hunting/Fishing License to take reptiles, or a valid AZ Fishing License or combination Hunting/Fishing License to take amphibians. More information regarding Arizona Hunting and Fishing Licenses, and online license sales are available at this website: https://www.azgfd.com/License
DISCLAIMER: Please understand that the comments you have read here regarding Arizona State regulations are not to be considered legal advice or completely accurate interpretations of the law. It is the sole responsibility of the individual to read the regulations, understand them, and abide by them.
A copy of the current Arizona Reptile and Amphibian Regulations can be accessed with this link: