Herping Etiquette/Ethics

The following is a list of items to be aware of while afield searching for amphibians and reptiles in Kansas. Adherence to these general guidelines will enhance the experience for your field crew and those that follow.

Respect property:
  • Obtain permission (preferably written) before entering private property.
  • Respect the landscape, livestock, fences, and buildings on any property. Do not enter buildings (even those abandoned).
  • Do not open gates or enter properties with your vehicle, unless authorized.
  • Park along the road or in designated parking areas.
  • Leave field-access, drives, and rural roads open so that landowners moving large implements may pass.
  • Avoid stretching fences when crossing them, and use fence stiles where available.
  • Do not start fires.
  • Do not litter. Take all trash with you.
  • Attempt to place cover objects back as you found them. This is not so much a habitat destruction concern as it is an aesthetic issue.
  • Make a point to visit with landowners/park personnel after your fieldwork. If possible show them (animals or pictures) the herps you discovered.

Respect laws/regulations:
  • It is your responsibility to know the Kansas and local/park statutes. This includes not only species and bag limits, but also access to private and public lands/refuges and trespassing.
  • Know what species are protected (Endangered, Threatened, or Species in Need of Conservation [SINC]).
  • Obey all signage (e.g. requests to stay on trails)
  • Persons field herping in Kansas (even those exempt) should purchase a permit/license. Non-game wildlife is currently managed by funds generated through the sale of licenses.

Respect herps:
  • Learn about the local herps before you go. How to identify them (e.g. venomous) and what to expect (and what might be notable and of scientific value).
  • Don't handle venomous snakes. Many of them resemble harmless species at first glance.
  • In your haste to grab a Western Milksnake under a piece of cover, don't neglect to notice the Eastern Copperhead lying concealed right next to it.
  • Minimize your disturbance of herp aggregations (den sites, etc.). In general, these are special sites and a small amount of disturbance might have a significant effect on the local population.
  • After lifting a cover object, be sure to move any animals that might be crushed when the cover is put back down.
  • Keep animals in containers that satisfy their needs adequately while in the field (e.g. out of the sun, keeping amphibians moist, etc).
  • Don't handle amphibians if you have harmful chemicals on your hands (insect repellents, lotions, sunscreens, etc).
  • Don't put different species of amphibians in the same container.
  • Don't handle them roughly and make sure that you are fully prepared to care for a 'pet', should you decide to take one home.
  • Return all animals to a spot as close to the collection locality as possible.
  • Don't release non-native herps into the wild.
  • Attempt to disinfect your clothing (gloves, shoes, etc) and gear between sites. Especially in wetland situations.

Respect other herpers:
  • Give yourselves space and don't turn cover ahead of others.
  • On slopes, ensure that cover does not 'break loose' when there are herpers below you.
  • Share your spots and information, to assist others by increasing their knowledge of the local herpetofauna.
  • Stay out of research sites, don't disturb traps or cover objects set by others.

Respect the public:
  • Avoid going herping alone, minimally let friends know where you're going and when you expect to be back.
  • While road cruising, always be aware of vehicles both ahead and behind you.
  • Choose a rarely traveled roadway and don't drive too slowly as to impede traffic.
  • If you stop, be sure to pull over to the side and where you can be easily seen over hills and around curves.
  • If possible wear reflective clothing when road herping.
  • While field herping on public land, avoid impacting areas immediately adjacent to a trail.

Last Updated: 4/2/2022 8:47:09 PM CST — Travis W. Taggart

Travis W. Taggart © 1999-2024 — w/ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University