What's y'alls thoughts or feelings in regards to field herping?

possibly sensitive topic

I use to field herp when i was younger so i can certainly understand the allure, however as i got older and realized it’s important to interfere and interact with species that i would encounter.

Personally i kinda have mixed feelings about field herping.

I love that people have a passion for animals, of course i want them to be safe but i kinda feel that picking the wild animals up with tools or by hand is not good and could be stressful for the animals. We all are excited to see animals and have pictures but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found its important to leave them in their natural state.

How do y’alls feel about interacting with animals as in “hands on approach” versus just photographing in place.

I understand that we all have different feelings I’d live a calm discussion about the subject. I don’t wish to sound disrespectful or negative about the subject.


I don’t have a problem with a small amount of handling of wild animals provided it’s not excessive or rough, and they get placed back exactly where you found them. Also, I would avoid handling any delicate species or animals that are protected. I rarely get the chance to handle wild snakes, but the few I’ve caught over the years didn’t even appear stressed by it.


As a field researcher. I accompanied a herp prof from a collaborative university (whose institution & identity shall remain nameless) on an extended trip. He enthusiastically destroyed precious microhabitats as well as invaluable ancient pack rat middens (that hold clues to reconstructing past ecosystem & climate data acquired nowhere else). I was sickened by his utter disregard for these creatures’ ecology and needs. I do not mean to cast general aspersions on herpers at all, but I doubt his methods were unique.

As far as capturing critters out and about for a looksee or better, for inaturalist or the likes, that’s fine. Just use common sense so they don’t lose a tail or whatnot. They’re not going to have a traumatic meltdown or something.


I don’t like to name names either especially without the person being able to defend their position.

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It may also be worth mentioning that in nature, herps can slither or scurry back on their own turf that they know like the back of their own hand and encounters with potential predators is an everyday fact of life. Captive new herps are trapped in zone and need time to acclimate, especially for youngsters that are used to being on the menu for anything that is their own size or bigger than themselves. This stress is um, stressed, in part, for new herps cuz they’ll likely carry parasites that usually are no biggie but can overwhelm them in new homes.


I think briefly catching and handling wild herps can be okay, so long as care is taken to prevent injury to the animal and preserve their habitat, and the animal is returned to the same spot.

Normally I just observe wild herps where they are, but there are two main exceptions. The first is if the animal is in an unsafe place, like on a road, inside a building, etc. Then I’ll catch them and move them somewhere safer nearby. The other time is during nature walks at work. I work with adults with developmental disabilities, and some of our clients are unable to step off pavement to get a good look at the critters because they’re in wheelchairs or have other physical disabilities, so sometimes I’ll catch little snakes and lizards and bring them over where everyone can get a good look. Then I’ll return them to where I found them.


My thoughts is it does more good than harm to a group of animals long demonized by society.

I agree with you that it can be a MAJOR stressor for the animals, however, it is also a fun hobby parents can teach there kids and increase their knowledge and love for the various local species to them, as well as helping to teach them which animals are venomous and should be avoided, preventing accidental invenomations in children.

I feel there is invasive and non invasive herping as well. When you start turning rocks and logs, if you arent careful you can destroy their home, or crush them by accident when you put things back. But if you are going about your day, and happen upon one, it doesnt hurt to get a cool photo op with them as long as you are careful in your handling and knowledgeable about what you are picking up :).

When i was young, i was definitely an invasive herper, flipping every rock i could find. In my teen years i started createing hides where i could safely set the rock back down and there still be a gap for any animals that moved in. Now that im an adult, i really only flip or move things if i have to for landacaping /yardwork. But between mowing the lawn, moving around wood and rocks, and keeping an eye open, ive found many herps that i needed to “safely relocate” :wink: (to be fair, inside my fence i have 5 dogs, so it actually was safer to remove them, as well as lawn mower danger, but id be lieing if i said half of my reasoning wasnt just wanting to interact with them :slight_smile: )

So in short, done responsibly, it raises awareness, and interest in the reptile hobby, familiarizes people with their local herp ecology, and asside from some stress and fear for a couple minutes for the animal, doesnt cause too much harm. So id call hands on good provided you arent destroying their homes.


I believe the topic is more on catch and release than it is about field collection for the pet trade, but thats certainly another important topic!


I think that it’s totally fine as long as you DO NOT intentionally destroy any natural habitat. You might break a couple sticks or trip and move one rock here and there, but as long as you are trying to keep collateral damage to a minimum, you hold the animal for a very short amount of time and you place it back in the spot you found it, I have no issues.


I agree with most of the posts. Picking an animal up for a couple minutes or less doesn’t hurt anything. As long as the animal isn’t harmed and is just put back where it was found (with exceptions like a dangerous area) it doesn’t cause any damage. I also don’t see a problem with picking up logs/rocks as long as they are put back down exactly the same.


I avoid this now because many reptiles and amphibians burrow under them and have set trails for air, entry, and egress. When the animal moves once the rock/log is lifted, it is no longer lined up with the burrow it dug, and when the item (rocks being the bigger offenders) is placed back down, even if done perfectly, it can crush or suffocate the animal. Also, the chances of a rock that is anything other than flat being put back down perfectly so it reseals the temp and humidity is very low.

Im not saying it cant be done, just that many forget that even if they put things back perfect, if the animals move at all while the item is lifted, they are going to have a bad time when it is placed back down.

What i did in my teen years to avoid this was make artificial hides that i could check. Dig out a shallow space, then place a large flat rock over it. Since it is fully hollow instead of just a tunnel, there is no risk of harming the animal when it is lowered. However, because there is no humidity/temp seal, you are much less likely to find amphibians in these artificial hides, just snakes on occassion.


As long as the animal isn’t under the rock/log when it’s set down it couldn’t hurt the animal. For example, if you lift a rock and find a snake, you take the snake out, set the rock down, and let the snake go next to it. Often the snake will just go back under the rock.


Fair, its a bit more difficult for salamanders, but as long as you arent putting it back down over them, the risk is lower. Just remember with amphibians (like salamanders) they rely on that moisture seal, and once its broken, it likely wont reseal until the next rain. Logs are alot more forgiving for this. In my state we have alot of salamanders, so for every 3 rocks/logs you flip, you are likely to find at least 1.


I can agree here with y’alls points yes emergency intervention such as being on a roadway or in places that can cause harm to the animals or where the animals may pose a threat to families or pets etc.

I know in my youth i damaged a lot of habitats in my excitement to find animals. Im sure i damaged or possibly killed animals inadvertently.

Im glad that with age and understanding that i became far less invasive into animals lives and tried to always just observe without interference. There was time when i needed to help an animal off the road. I get very sad when i see dead animals who got run over.


I only being herping recently so my knowledge of the whole thing was more developed. Additionally as a fun fact that many of you won’t know, I took AP Ecology along with AP Biology and AP Calculus AB in high school. I would say that most of the videos we see of herping are done wrong but they are definitely better then people that have no knowledge of the area or the animals. I think, one thing we need to improve on is knowing when a animal is in a spot that would might cause you to damage its surroundings.

The way I like to think about it is :arrow_down:

Would you like someone to break a window to get in your house or would you like them to us the front door? Or maybe they don’t break the window but storm the back sliding glass door?

All in all, I believe that herping is on the good side of ecology and the wellfair of animals. We just need to make sure that we are mindful of their homes/habitats and remember that it is stressful for them.

I love you all and I love all of our animals. I believe our greatest impact comes when we stand together, unified as a group, yes with diverse ideas but bonded buy our care and concern for all animals.


I think with technology advancement we can also look to possibly less invasive and less stress and danger to all parties. I know drones can give good views but are quite noisy perhaps more terrestrial drones can get up close with less disturbance. The future will incorporate more technology and robotics, it’s actually exciting and yes a bit frightening because while human have a great capacity for compassion and use tech to help, we also have imo a greater capacity for destruction and use technology not to help people but to cause harm.

For far too long humans haven’t cared about the planet or the damage they are doing but i feel soon the earth will be here to collect on that debt.

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If I can paddle around in a canoe, and grab a few turtles that get my kids excited about nature - for the rest of their lives - I really don’t believe that is harming anything. Even if we were to hold a spotted turtle for a couple minutes, to see up close what a beautiful animal it is!, I think the good outweighs the potential fines involved. We never hold anything for more than a couple minutes (at most). That goes for any amphibians, reptiles, etc.

My four kids aren’t nature lovers because they watched Steve Irwin, they’re nature lovers because they got to love nature! How can we lose?


Don’t destroy habitat, don’t make lizards drop their tail. It’s pretty much that simple. There is an infinite amount of nuance that can be applied or develops with experience but it’s pretty simple on the surface of it.

I can tell some of you don’t interact with wild herps often. The stress factor is being overstated. Snakes will often respond no differently than one you’d find in your snake room. No biting, no musking, no flight response. In dry climates a lot of things will even take a drink from a cup or bowl while you hold it. Hardly something a seriously stressed out animal would do.

Some lizard species shouldn’t be held as juveniles, some as adults, and other at all throughout their life. That’s something any decent human being out herping will figure out quickly by observation.

Here’s some food for thought for those you feeling like it’s not ethical; Many of the most serious herpers that I know of don’t keep captive reptiles because they don’t think that’s ethical either. On the whole, there a lot more ethical dilemmas to the ‘inside’ herp hobby than there are to the outside one.

Without being an experienced part of the herping community, you’re dissecting an extremely nuanced hobby without any intimate knowledge of the actual community and it’s practices. The majority of herpers take it as seriously as you do captive keeping and some of them, far more. The majority of them are well beyond most of us on this forum when it comes to ecology and natural history knowledge.

Sure you’re going to see some people doing it poorly on youtube, but there are a million things being done poorly on youtube right now that don’t represent the quality and integrity of their respective communities.

I spend several hundred hours a year herping during the warm seasons. I’m out every weekend. There is so much about the act itself and the actual behavior of the animals you just can’t know unless you’re out there. Given that, you can’t possibly draw an accurate conclusion about things like the stress level of the animals or the impact of interaction, from behind the keyboard.

My suggestion is always that everyone get out herping more if reptiles are your thing.


100% agree. I love to go herping and I believe that it is one of the best way to educate. By no means was I saying that we shouldn’t go herping, just use common sense when you are out there and don’t be stupid.


Wish i could get out in nature more.