CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The days are gone when West Virginians could legally collect as many frogs, turtles or salamanders as they liked.
New regulations approved last year and now in effect, dictate possession limits for reptiles and amphibians taken within the state. To help the public understand the new limits, Division of Natural Resources officials have published a brochure that spells them out in detail.
The brochure can be downloaded from the DNR's website, www.wvdnr.gov/wf. Limited numbers of printed brochures are also available at DNR district offices, the agency's Elkins Operations Center, and at DNR headquarters in South Charleston.
The regulations were put into effect to stem the flood of reptiles and amphibians being taken from the state and sold as exotic pets.
Under the new guidelines, collectors can possess no more than 10 salamanders at a time. Licensed bait dealers are allowed up to 250. Most salamander species are fair game, but 10 species, including hellbenders, mudpuppies and the endangered Cheat Mountain salamander, are now illegal to collect.
Frog hunters can still take up to 20 bullfrogs or green frogs, but may possess no more than four of any other frog or toad species. Three species - the Eastern spadefoot toad, the Northern cricket frog and the northern leopard frog - have been declared off-limits.
The new regulations also limit to four the number of snakes or lizards that can be collected. The only two exceptions are Northern copperheads and timber rattlesnakes, each with a limit of one, and with an additional regulation that sets a minimum size limit of 42 inches for timber rattlers.
Possession limits for most turtle species have been set at four, but there are several exceptions.
Eastern snapping turtles and spiny softshells, both commonly hunted for their meat, carry daily bag limits of 10 and total possession limits of 20. Species threatened by the pet trade - wood turtles, spotted turtles, Northern map turtles, Ouachita map turtles and midland smooth softshells- are now illegal to possess.
"These regulations have been needed for a long time," said Barb Sargent, the DNR's Natural Heritage Program coordinator. "West Virginia has long had a reputation as being a 'black hole' where there was very little protection for reptiles and amphibians."
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or johnmc...@wvgazette.com.