We are all here for one reason, because we love herps. So, we do not want to hurt any of our herp friends indirectly. Here are some simple tips to help protect herps while herping.
#1: You Don't Have to Touch Everything
Handling can be stressful for herps. Imagine you are in your house and a giant picks your house up, and then you. It would be a scary experience. A little stress will not cause long term damage, but major stress will. Amphibians have permeable skin, meaning salts, oils, and other chemicals on your skin can be absorbed directly into their bloodstream. Amphibians should only be handled with wet hands. The only real reasons to handle herps is to move the animal out of a trap or a dangerous situation (road, building, etc.) or better looks, like attempting to see certain features to properly ID (such as thigh patches on Kauffeld's Leopards). Otherwise, handling should be kept to a minimum.
#2: Don't Disturb Nests
Many herps make nests to protect their eggs. Sometimes we flip a log or rock and find a specimen on a nest. Take your photos, but don't pick up the eggs or guarding adults. Reptile eggs cannot be turned from the position they are laid (very different from bird eggs), and if they are the embryo will drown in the fluids. Disturbing adults on nests could cause them to leave the nest, and the eggs defenseless.
#3: Tread Lightly and Carefully
When looking for herps, the last thing you want to do is step on the herp for which you are searching. Herping often requires one to go off trail, but try only going off trail when necessary. When you do, remember the herp you seek may be there because of a rare plant community, so try not to trample any parts of the environment.
#4: The World is NOT a Dumpster!
Anyone looking at a site like this obviously knows not to litter, I am not gonna preach about that; but maybe while you are out in nature, you could pick up any litter as long as it is safe to do so. Remember not to touch cigarette butts, diapers, or other hazardous with your bare hands.
#5: Leave Habitat the Way it was Found
Position logs, rocks, and bark the way you found them! Do not pick flowers or pull-up native plants.
#6: Follow Local Laws
This should go without being said... Don't trespass, poach, or even make a traffic violation while herping. It makes us all look bad. I have had many run-ins with police and conservation officers while herping, and all were relatively pleasant. Usually it is along the lines of, "I saw you were pulled-off and I was making sure you were fine." Be respectful. Remember, your actions reflect us all.
#7: Be Kind and Educate Others that Want to Learn
People judge herpers the same way they judge snakes. Sometimes, just being pleasant can make someone who dislikes snakes think that they may not be so bad. If this nice person likes snakes, they cannot be that bad. I always have children asking "What is that?" and I always answer and interact. If you are standoffish, people will interpret it as you are that "Weird Snake Person", and not as the Naturalist you truly are. If you encounter someone who is very misguided, remember Ty's moto: "Educate. Don't instigate."
Herping Virginia encourages all naturalists to practice ethical, safe, and sustainable herping. The use of proper herping methods and techniques is beneficial to both wildlife and herpers. Visit the links below for more information.