If approved, the regulations would allow state residents to possess up to four of most species of reptiles and amphibians. Exceptions would include bullfrogs, green frogs, snapping turtles and eastern spiny softshell turtles, which each would maintain a daily creel limit of 10 and possession limit of 20.
The other notable exceptions are the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead, which would carry a possession limit of one each.
Several "species of concern" would be illegal to take or possess. Those would include five turtle species: wood turtles, spotted turtles, northern map turtles, Ouachita map turtles and midland smooth softshell turtles.
Thirteen amphibians would be on the no-take list: eastern hellbenders, mudpuppies, Cheat Mountain salamanders, white-spotted salamanders, Shenandoah Mountain salamanders, smallmouth salamanders, streamside salamanders, green salamanders, West Virginia spring salamanders, eastern spadefoot toads, northern cricket frogs and northern leopard frogs.
DNR biologists deliberately left a couple of salamander species off the prohibited list even though their scarcity probably should have put them there.
"For example, the black-bellied salamander has a limited range, but it's also used for bait by people who fish in the New River Gorge area," Sargent explained. "So we reluctantly put it on the 'take' list."
Representatives of the DNR's Wildlife Diversity, Law Enforcement, and Wildlife Resources units worked together on the regulations. Tom Pauley, the renowned Marshall University herpetologist, was the agency's "main outside source" for information about many of the species.
Anyone caught violating the regulations would be charged with violating Chapter 20, the portion of the state code that governs fish- and wildlife-related regulations.
Sargent believes the regulations, though long overdue, should help keep West Virginians' wildlife from being exploited by outsiders.
"Illegal trade [in reptiles and amphibians] is huge, and it's growing," she said. "Some of it is for the pet trade, and some of it is for the food trade.
"The people who are coming in here and robbing West Virginia of its wildlife aren't sportsmen, they're profiteers. These regulations should make it more difficult for them to operate."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.