Nothing here should be considered to be legal advice or an interpretation of local, state, or federal laws.
The information below pertains to private hunting and collecting of native reptiles and amphibians in California, not selling or trading animals. For a pdf with information regarding captive propagation of native reptiles and amphibians, follow the link on the special permits page
A current California freshwater sportfishing fishing license is needed to collect non-protected reptiles and amphibians in California, except for rattlesnakes. (See the California Fish and Game Commission web site for exceptions, such as scientific collecting permits.) This license must be displayed by attaching it to the "outer clothing at or above the waistline so that it is plainly visible...."
Fish and Game officers have told me that all herpers need a license if they plan to pick up or handle a herp (except rattlesnakes) to photograph it, even though they don't plan to collect it. The reason they give is that if you have an animal in your possession, even temporarily, and a law enforcement officeer sees you with the animal in your possession, it may appear to the officer that you are collecting the animal.
Many species of California herps are off-limit to collecting. You should always know the current regulations regarding herps if you plan to catch or collect them. Consult the California Fish and Game 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 fishing license may not give you permission to catch or collect herps in these areas.
The links below should direct you to the most current California state regulations. If this page is not updated by the time these regulations expire (February 28, 2007), go to the California Fish and Game Commission web site to find the updated link.
Also, please be aware that the names used by CaliforniaHerps.com and by other web sites and field guides sometimes differ from those used by the California Fish and Game Department (CFGD.) The names used by the CFGD do not reflect recent name changes for some species, and this may cause confusion regarding which animals can be taken. This means, that in order to follow the law, you should be familiar with the older names, and consult the CFGD with any questions.
To download a .pdf file of the current regulations, go to this page California Sport Fishing Regulations, and click on the link labeled "2006 Fresh Water Sport Fishing Regulation Booklet (.pdf)." The rules regarding amphibians and reptiles are found here:
Rules regarding Amphibians:
Article 4, section 5.05 - page 15.
Rules regarding Reptiles:
Article 4, section 5.60 - pages 17 - 18.
For any supplemental regulations, you should consult the California Fish and Game Commission.
These regulations are labelled as current until February 28th, 2007, unless otherwise noted. If our link to the regulations is not up-to-date, you can find a link to the most current regulations on the California Fish and Game Commission home page.
For your convenience, I have copied the relevant sections from the 2006 .pdf document (downloaded February 8th, 2006) which you can read below. All emphasis has been added by me and is not part of the original document.
The information below is not guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date. (I have to say that because I don't want to get in trouble for giving out legal advice.) For the accurate, current laws, see the actual fishing regulations booklet or the.pdf document.
(a) Only the following amphibians may be taken under the authority of a sportfishing 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.
(1) Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)
(2) California giant salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus)
(3) Southern Seep (Torrent) Salamander (Rhyacotriton variegatus)
(4) Rough- skinned newt (Taricha granulosa)
(5) California newt (Taricha torosa)
(6) Red-bellied newt (Taricha rivularis)
(7) Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile)
(8) Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum), except Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum)
(9) Black Salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus)
(10) Clouded salamander (Aneides ferreus)
(11) Arboreal salamander (Aneides lugubris)
(12) California slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus): See Special Closure (f)(1)
(13) Pacific slender salamander (Batrachoseps pacificus): See Special Closure (f)(1)
(14) Relictual slender salamander (Batrachoseps relictus): See Special Closure (f)(1)
(15) Dunn’s salamander (Plethodon dunni)
(16) Ensatina salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzii)
(17) Western toad (Bufo boreas)
(18) Woodhouse’s toad (Bufo woodhouseii)
(19) Red-spotted toad (Bufo punctatus)
(20) Great Plains toad (Bufo cognatus)
(21) Great Basin spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus (Spea) intermontana)
(22) Couch’s spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus (Spea) couchii)
(23) California chorus frog (Hyla (Pseudacris) cadaverina)
(24) Pacific chorus frog (Hyla (Pseudacris) regilla)
(25) Northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens)
(26) Southern leopard frog (Rana yutricularia)
(27) Rio Grande leopard frog (Rana berlandieri)
(28) Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
(b) 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)).
(c) Limit: The daily bag and possession limit for each of the amphibian species listed in subsection (a), above, is four except for bullfrogs, which have no daily bag or possession limit.
(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 flakes, logs, or other shelters in or under which amphibians may be found.
(f) Special closures:
(1) No slender salamanders (Batrachoseps spp.) may be taken from Inyo and Mono counties and from the Santa Rosa Mountains, Riverside County.
(a) General Provisions: Only the following reptiles may be taken under the authority of a sportfishing license, subject to the restrictions in this section. 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. 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) No sportfishing license is required for the sport take of any rattlesnake.
(1) Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta): Limit: No limit.
(2) Slider Turtle (Pseudemys (Trachemys) scripta): Limit: No limit.
(3) Spiny softshell turtle (Trionyx spiniferus): Limit: No limit.
(4) Western banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus)
(5) Desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis)
(6) Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus)
(7) Zebra-tailed lizard (Callisaurus draconoides)
(8) Colorado Desert fringe-toed lizard (Uma notata)
(9) Mojave fringe-toed lizard (Uma scoparia)
(10) Desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister)
(11) Granite spiny lizard (Sceloporus orcutti)
(12) Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis): Limit: Species No. 12- 6 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate
(13) Sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus): Limit: Species No. 12- 6 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate
(14) Side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana):Limit: Species No. 12- 6 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate
(15) Western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus): Limit: Species No. 12- 6 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate
(16) Desert night lizard (Xantusia vigilis): Limit: Species No. 12- 6 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate
(17) Long-tailed brush lizard (Urosaurus graciosus)
(18) Tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)
(19) Small-scaled lizard (Urosaurus microscutatus)
(20) Desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)
(21) Short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglassii)
(22) Great basin collared lizard (Crotaphytus bicintores)
(23) Banded rock lizard (Petrosaurus mearnsi)
(24) Baja California collared lizard (Crotaphytus vestigum)
(25) Long-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii)
(26) Gilbert’s skink (Eumeces gilberti)
(27) Western whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris)
(28) Southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)
(29) Northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea)
(30) California legless lizard (Anniella pulchra), except black legless lizard (Anniella pulchra nigra): Limit: One (1)
(31) Rubber boa (Charina bottae), except southern rubber boa (Charina bottae umbratica)
(32) Rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata)
(33) Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus)
(34) Sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis)
(35) Spotted leaf-nosed snake (Phyllorhynchus decurtatus)
(36) Racer (Coluber constrictor)
(37) Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum), except San Joaquin Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum ruddocki)
(38) Striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus)
(39) California whipsnake (striped racer) (Masticophis lateralis), except Alameda whipsnake (Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus)
(40) Western patch-nosed snake (Salvadora hexalepis).
(41) Glossy snake (Arizona elegans)
(42) Gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus): Limit: Four (4)
(43) Common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula): Limit: Four (4)
(44) California mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata), except San Diego mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata pulchra) : Limit: One
(1). Special Closure: No California mountain kingsnakes shall be taken in Orange and San Diego counties, and in Los Angeles County west of Interstate 5.
(45) Long-nosed snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
(46) Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), except San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia): Special Closure: No common garter snakes shall be taken in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and Ventura counties.
(47) Terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans)
(48) Western aquatic (Sierra) garter snake (Thamnophis couchii)
(49) Pacific coast aquatic garter snake (Thamnophis atratus)
(50) Northwestern garter snake (Thamnophis ordinoides)
(51) Checkered garter snake (Thamnophis marcianus)
(52) Ground snake (Sonora semiannulata)
(53) Western shovel-nosed snake (Chionactis occipitalis)
(54) California black-headed snake (Tantilla planiceps)
(55) Southwestern black-headed snake (Tantilla hobartsmithi)
(56) Lyre snake (Trimorphodon biscutatus)
(57) Night snake (Hypsiglena torquata)
(58) Western blind snake (Leptotyphlops humilis)
(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 (d) (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.
Herps not on the lists of animals that can be taken with a valid sportfishing license
The lists above indicate which reptiles and amphibians can be taken. This simplifies enforcement for the CDFG, because any animal not on the list should be automatically protected, including newly discovered species, and newly-described species.
I thought it would be useful to make a list of herps that are not on the above lists, and which therefore cannot be taken. (If I missed anything, please let me know. ) This is tricky because some animals are probably not on the CDFG lists because they are newly recognized species, such as the Wandering Salamander, which used to be classified as the Clouded Salamander. The Clouded Salamander can be taken, but the Wandering Salamander is not on the list. Does this mean the Wandering Salamander cannot be taken, or is it still classified as the Clouded Salamander? One would have to contact the CDFG for the answer. Another potential problem is the genus Batrachoseps, which has recently been split into many new species which are probably not yet recognized by the CDFG, and that is why they are not on the list of takable animals. For example, many of the Sierra Batrachoseps which were classified as Batrachoseps nigriventris and Batrachoseps pacificus, have been re-classified as full species - B. kawia, B. regius, B. gregarius, B. diabolicus but these changes are not reflected in the CDFG list.
Please do not consider the following lists as an official representation or interpretation of the current law.
California Herps that may not be taken:
None of the introduced
Tiger Salamanders - Ambystoma tigrinum
California Tiger Salamander - Ambystoma californiense
Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander - Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum
Wandering Salamander? - Aneides vagrans
Inyo Mountains Salamander - Batrachoseps campi
Kern Plateau Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps robustus
Kern Canyon Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps simatus
Tehachapi Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps stebbinsi
Desert Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps major aridus
Black-bellied Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps nigriventris
San Gabriel Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps gabrieli
Gregarious Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps gregarius
Lesser Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps minor
San Simeon Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps incognitus
(The CDFG Batrachoseps taxonomy is confusing, so the following salamanders might be takable if they fall under their older classifications.)
Hell Hollow Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps diabolicus
Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps gavilanesis
Sequoia Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps kawia
Santa Lucia Mountains Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps luciae
Garden Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps major
Kings River Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps regius
Shasta Salamander - Hydromantes shastae
Limestone Salamander - Hydromantes brunus
Mt. Lyell Salamander - Hydromantes platycephalus
Del Norte Salamander - Plethodon elongatus
Siskiyou Mountains Salamander - Plethodon stormi
Scott Bar Salamander - Plethodon asupak
Sonoran Desert Toad - Bufo alvarius
Arroyo Toad - Bufo Californicus
Arizona Toad - Bufo microscaphus
Black Toad - Bufo exsul
Yosemite Toad - Bufo canorus
California Red- legged Frog - Rana draytonii
Northern Red-legged Frog - Rana aurora
Foothill Yellow-legged Frog - Rana boylii
Mountain Yellow-legged Frog - Rana muscosa
Cascades Frog - Rana cascadae
Oregon Spotted Frog - Rana pretiosa
Lowland Leopard Frog - Rana yavapaiensis
California Spadefoot - Spea hamondii
African Clawed Frog - Xenopus laevis
Baja California Ratsnake - Bogertophis rosaliae
Southern Rubber Boa - Charina umbratica
San Diego Mountain Kingsnake - Lampropeltis zonata pulchra
San Joaquin Coachwhip - Masticophis flagellum ruddocki
Alameda Whipsnake - Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus
Yellow- bellied Sea Snake - Pelamis Platurus
Two-striped Gartersnake - Thamnophis hammondii
Giant Gartersnake - Thamnophis gigas
San Francisco Gartersnake - Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia
Common Gartersnake - Thamnophis sirtalis (From Southern California, only)
Orange-throated Whiptail - Aspidoscelis hyperythrus beldingi
Black Legless Lizard - Anniella pulchra (dark morph from Monterey Bay)
Peninsular Banded Gecko (Barefoot Gecko) - Coleonyx switaki
Panamint Alligator Lizard - Elgaria panamintina
Cope's Leopard Lizard - Gambelia copei
Blunt-nosed Leopard - Gambelia sila
Mediterranean Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus
Gila Monster - Heloderma suspectum cinctum
Flat-tailed Horned Lizard - Phrynosoma mcallii
Coast Horned Lizard - Phrynosoma coronatum
Peninsula Leaf-toed Gecko - Phyllodactylus nocticolus
Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard - Uma inornata
Sandstone Night Lizard - Xantusia gracilis
Granite Night Lizard - Xantusia henshawi
Island Night Lizard - Xantusia riversiana
Northern Pacific Pond Turtle - Actinemys marmorata marmorata
Southern Pacific Pond Turtle - Actinemys marmorata pallida
Snapping Turtle - Chelydra serpentina
Desert Tortoise - Gopherus agassizii
Sonoran Mud Turtle -