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, 2016 - February 28, 2017

Comments and Opinions
Rattlesnakes Info.

Herps that
may be taken according to the current regulations:
Changes From Last Year
An Interpretation of which Herps may not be taken:

Restricted Species Laws


(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.


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.

2016 - 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations pertaining to Amphibians and Reptiles:

The 2016 - 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations good for 3/1/16 to 2/28/17 are available online.
The regulations pertaining to Amphibians are on page 20.
The regulations pertaining to Reptiles are on pages 22 and 23.

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.

Some Basic Rules and Regulations (pertaining to California's native reptiles and amphibians.) Some of these are listed under "General Provisions and Definitions" on page 11 of 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.

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 "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."]

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.

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.

(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.

2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations  Effective March 1, 2016 - February 28, 2017
Chapter 2. Statewide Regulations for Fishing and Frogging in Inland Waters Provisions and Definitions

For your convenience, I have reproduced the 2016 - 2017 herp regulations below. All emphasis has been added by me and is not part of the original document. I have also separated the families with headings - salamanders, frogs, turtles, lizards, and snakes and done some other formatting which I hope will make it easier to read online.

. Amphibians. (Page 20)

(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.

(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)
(The CDFW is 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 flakes, 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.
(Pages 22-23)

(a) General Provisions: Only the following reptiles may be taken may be taken under the authority of a sportfishing license, subject to the restrictions in this section. No sportfishing 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) Slider Turtle  (Pseudemys (Trachemys) scripta):   Limit: No limit.

(3) Spiny softshell turtle  (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):  
       (Limit: Species No. 9-13 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate.
        This limit information was left out but should also be located here next to species 9.)

(10) Western fence lizard  (Sceloporus occidentalis):   Limit: Species No. 9-13 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(11) Sagebrush lizard  (Sceloporus graciosus):   Limit: Species No. 9-13 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(12) Side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana):  Limit: Species No. 9-13 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate

(13) Western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus):  Limit: Species No. 9-13 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)
[This is the same mistake they made last year - it should read "See Special Closure (f)(3)]
        Limit: Species No. 9-13 have a limit of twenty-five (25) in the aggregate
[Again, this is the same mistake made last year. Since this is species 14 - the actual limit is unclear.]

(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)  
[Plestiodon is misspelled here.]

(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)
[This is a mistake - it should be See Special Closure (f)(2)]

(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)

(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)

(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.

Changes from the 2015 - 2016 Regulations

I can find no changes made from the 2015-2016 regulations. 
(2015-2016 Regulations)

They didn't even fix several very obvious mistakes that have existed for several years and they continue to use some very old taxonmy (Pituophis melanoleucus, etc.) that has not been used for many years.)

I was told that the CDFW is developing changes to the existing regulations pertaining to herps in order to update common and scientific names, add or subtract species from the list, determine closure zones, and "increase the ability of citizen scientists and recreationists to assist CDFW in amphibian and reptile conservation." (This last part looks really interesting and could indicate some great new changes. Maybe we will be given the approval to temporarily handle threatened animals that may be difficult to identify without capture.) When these changes are put into effect, I will note them on this page. (This was supposed to happen this year, but it did not. Let's hope it happens next year.)

Herps not on the lists of animals that can be taken with a valid sportfishing license (or protected by a special closure)

The lists above indicate which reptiles and amphibians can be taken. This simplifies enforcement for the CDFW, because any animal not on the list is 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 on my list are probably not on the CDFW lists because they are newly recognized subspecies or 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 CDFW for the answer.)

Another problem is the genus Batrachoseps, which has recently been split into many new species which are probably not yet recognized by the CDFW, and that is why they are not on the list of animals which can be taken. For example, many of the Sierra Batrachoseps which were formerly classified as Batrachoseps nigriventris and Batrachoseps pacificus, have been re-classified as full species - B. kawia, B. regius, B. gregarius, B. diabolicus. This taxonomy and these names are in common use now, but the changes are not reflected in the CDFW list. The CDFW appears to be conservative, reacting slowly to changes in nomenclature. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, but it can make it confusing to those trying to understand the regulations.

Also not included on the take lists are non-native species. Some of these are listed as Restricted Species which cannot be taken, and those are added to my lists below. But some, such as the Mediterranean Gecko and the Southern Italian Wall Lizard are not yet listed as Restricted Species. My interpretation of the regulations is that any species not on the take list cannot be taken, including these and any other non-native herps. However, the CDFW has an invasive species program that encourages collecting and reporting invasive species - Laws and Regulations Regarding Invasive Species in California so for this program, you are allowed to collect non-native species in order to send them to the CDFW.

Please do not consider the following lists as an official representation or interpretation of the current law. You will have to determine that yourself. (These are only my observations and I'm only one error-prone human without an editor or fact-checkers so I could have missed something.)

California Herps that may not be taken:



Tiger Salamanders  (Ambystoma tigrinum (mavortium)) (None of the non-native species)

California Tiger Salamander
(Ambystoma californiense)

Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander
   (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum)

Wandering Salamander
   (Aneides vagrans)  (this is not clear as the CDFW may still include this species with Aneides ferreus
                                                                                 which can be taken)

Hell Hollow Slender Salamander
  (Batrachoseps diabolicus)

Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander
  (Batrachoseps gavilanesis)

Sequoia Slender Salamander
  (Batrachoseps kawia)

Santa Lucia Mountains Slender Salamander
  (Batrachoseps luciae)

Kings River Slender Salamander
  (Batrachoseps regius)

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)

Relictual Slender salamander
  (Batrachoseps relictus)

Fairview Slender Salamander
  (Batrachoseps bramei)

Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander
  (Batrachoseps altasierra)

Channel Islands slender Salamander  (
Batrachoseps pacificus)

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 )

California Giant Salamander
  (Dicamptodon ensatus)

Southern Seep (Torrent) Salamander
(Rhyacotriton variegatus)

Coast Range Newt
  (Taricha torosa)

Sierra Newt
  (Taricha sierrae)

Red-bellied Newt
  (Taricha rivularis)

Southern Long-toed Salamander 
(Ambystoma macrodactylum sigillatum)

Dunn’s Salamander
  (Plethodon dunni)

Frogs and Toads

Sonoran Desert Toad  (Bufo (Incilius) alvarius)

Arroyo Toad
  (Bufo (Anaxyrus) Californicus)

Arizona Toad
  (Bufo (Anaxyrus) microscaphus)

Black Toad
  (Bufo (Anaxyrus) exsul)

Yosemite Toad
  (Bufo (Anaxyrus) canorus)

California Red- legged Frog
   (Rana draytonii)

Northern Red-legged Frog
   (Rana aurora)

Foothill Yellow-legged Frog
   (Rana boylii)

Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frog
   (Rana sierrae)

Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog
   (Rana muscosa)

Cascades Frog
   (Rana cascadae)

Oregon Spotted Frog
   (Rana pretiosa)

Lowland Leopard Frog
   (Rana (Lithobates) yavapaiensis)

California Spadefoot
  (Spea hammondii)

African Clawed Frog
  (Xenopus laevis)

Coastal Tailed Frog
  (Ascaphus truei)

Couch’s Spadefoot Toad
  (Scaphiopus (Spea) couchii)



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
(Kinosternon sonoriense)

All Sea Turtles


Orange-throated Whiptail  (Aspidoscelis hyperythrus beldingi)

Peninsular Banded Gecko
(Barefoot Gecko)  (Coleonyx switaki)

Panamint Alligator Lizard
  (Elgaria panamintina)

Cope's Leopard Lizard
  (Gambelia copei)

Blunt-nosed Leopard
  (Gambelia sila)

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)

Colorado Desert fringe-toed lizard
  (Uma notata)

Mojave fringe-toed lizard
  (Uma scoparia)

Sandstone Night Lizard
  (Xantusia gracilis)

Granite Night Lizard
  (Xantusia henshawi)

Island Night Lizard
  (Xantusia riversiana)

Baja California Night Lizard
  (Xantusia wigginsi) (This lizard may be included with Xantusia vigilis)

San Diego banded gecko
  (Coleonyx variegatus abbotti)

Legless Lizards
  (Anniella pulchra) (This encompasses all of the five species which were described in 2013: A. alexanderae, A. campi, A. grinnelli, A. pulchra, and A. stebbinsi and the black legless lizard found around Monterey Bay.)


Baja California Ratsnake  (Bogertophis rosaliae)

Southern Rubber Boa
  (Charina umbratica)

San Diego Mountain Kingsnake
  (Lampropeltis zonata pulchra)

San Bernardino Mountain Kingsnake
  (Lampropeltis zonata parvirubra)

San Joaquin Coachwhip
  (Masticophis flagellum ruddocki)

Alameda Whipsnake 
(Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus)

Coast Patch-nosed Snake
  (Salvadora hexalepis virgultea)

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)

(all species)  (Nerodia)

Red Diamond Rattlesnake
  (Crotalus ruber)

California Glossy Snake
   (Arizona elegans occidentalis)

San Bernardino Ring-necked Snakes
  (Diadophis punctatus modestus)

Regal Ring-necked Snake
  (Diadophis punctatus regalis)

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, 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 genus Sistrurus is not necessary since that genus is not found in California.)

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

This law regarding rattlesnakes was not written by CDFW, but the 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 C. ruber, the CDFW regulations show a daily bag and possession limit of two.

My opinion is that this law exists to allow someone to remove or kill a rattlesnake 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 and they 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, and regardless of whether or not they need a license.

"Sport Take" vs. "Commercial Take"

The only place the term "sport take" shows up in the 2016-2017 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.

Differences in Common and Scientific Names From Those Used Here

Many of the names used by the CDFW are the same names that I use on, but many others are different. (I try to keep current with new changes in the scientific and common names while the CDFW takes a more conservative approach, continuing to retain many of the traditional names). 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.

You Can Now Buy a License Online

Go to the CDFE Licensing/Online-Sales web page for more information.


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