Reptile and amphibian laws
Reptiles and amphibians are protected by law, please DO NOT ATTEMPT TO KILL, COLLECT, or TAKE* ANY WILD REPTILES OR AMPHIBIANS. If you find an already deceased animal, see our Finding and Photographing Reptiles and Amphibians page for instructions on how to submit it to our research collection.
The Department of Fish and Game regulates the "taking*" of all reptiles and amphibians. It is illegal to do so without proper permits, even for a short while. It might seem like an easy way to get a photo, or fun to keep one as a pet, but keeping a wild reptile or amphibian in captivity is difficult and often ends in the lizard's untimely death.
*Definition of "take" according to the Department of Fish and Game is to, "hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempting to do so." Check out the Native Reptile Captive Propagation Laws and Regulations for full details.
What should I do if I have a wild reptile or amphibian as a pet?
Captive reptiles or amphibians should never be released back into the wild, and it is against the law to do so. Without proper care, a released pet can spread disease to wild populations. Further, if an animal is not released in the exact location from which it was found, or at the wrong time of year, it can be detrimental to the individual. Once a reptile or amphibian is in captivity, it should remain there, and be taken care of by someone with the correct permits and proper knowledge. See our Live Animal Program's page for rescue organizations with these qualifications.
How to help your reptile and amphibian neighbors
Reptiles and amphibians need your help! Many species of reptiles and amphibians are declining all throughout the world, and especially in urban areas like Los Angeles. One way you can help reptiles and amphibians is to be aware of their presence and to make your yard a reptile and amphibian friendly habitat.
Because our reptiles and amphibians are mainly terrestrial (ground dwelling) they are particularly susceptible to urban development. But there are some very simple ways you can help! Many people have reported lizards returning to their yards and neighborhoods when these simple steps were taken.
Cats are major offenders when it comes to killing small wild animals. Far from a natural occurrence, we have flooded the ecosystem with “harbored predators” who hunt for fun, and not food. Some free-roaming domestic cats kill more than 100 animals each year. One well-fed cat that roamed a wildlife experiment station was recorded to have killed more than 1,600 animals (mostly small mammals) over 18 months. Multiply that by 77 million pet cats in the United States and even more feral cats, and you can see this is an untenable situation.
There are many ways to keep your cats happy without doing harm to resident birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals.
Cats kept indoors obviously will not be able to kill native wildlife. This strategy also reduces risks to your cat, such as the chance of being hit by a vehicle or finding harmful chemicals (e.g., oils, antifreeze, fertilizers, and pesticides). If you have a yard or even a porch, a cat enclosure or kitty gazebo is also a great way to go! These can range from the very elaborate cat palace to very simple outdoor enclosures. Do an image search on the web for “cat enclosures” for more ideas!
Learn more about the impacts of cats on native wildlife by visiting the website for the American Bird Conservancy.
Gently slow them down with a CatBib!
While an outdoor pen is the ideal option for outdoor kitties, another idea for protecting wildlife is the CatBib. It slows down the cat’s ability to hunt, but is perfectly safe, allowing kitty to roam about. Learn more about the CatBib.
Watch out for animal traps
Another major problem for countless reptiles and amphibians is drowning, strangulation, and getting trapped in swimming pools, ceramic jars, old tires, buckets, bird netting, etc.
Any containers that lizards and other small creatures could get stuck in, need a ladder. You can use small piles of rocks, or branches to help small critters get out. Or you can put wire mesh over openings to prevent access.
The Froglog is the perfect option for swimming pools. It is affordable, simple and effective. You will save more than frogs if you put such a device in your swimming pool.
It is best to use this product only when it is absolutely necessary, when other methods (such as a greenhouse or scarecrow) have failed. In fact, most of our native birds probably help more than hurt a garden by eating pests. If you absolutely must use netting, try to keep it off the ground just enough for a lizard or snake to move about below, but not so high that a bird will still hop under. Suggested height above the ground is at least three inches, but not more than eight. Try to keep the netting stretched out in a single layer rather than folded over. Never discard netting into the environment, as it can continue to trap animals, instead shred it into tiny pieces before discarding.
Build a wildlife friendly habitat
Reducing the amount of irrigation in your yard, and "leaving the leaves" are the first steps to creating a wildlife friendly habitat. Around L.A., lizards can be quite common in backyards with appropriate habitat. One way to encourage lizards is to build rock and brush piles-they provide the perfect places to hide and bask. You can also try placing broken pottery shards or ceramic roof tiles around your yard, as they provide extra places for lizards to hide from curious pets.
Skip the pesticides!
There are countless websites and books dedicated to educating people about organic gardening and pesticide-free lawns. Remember: those “bugs” are food for lizards and frogs, and poisons often affect more than just the intended targets. If your yard is reptile and amphibian friendly, they should return very quickly with the removal of pesticides. And they will also help to keep unwanted pests out of your garden. For example, Southern Alligator Lizards are the most commonly encountered lizards in urban L.A. yards and they love to eat slugs! Happy gardening and happy lizarding!