During warmer months, many wild reptiles and amphibians will start coming out to enjoy the sunshine. Most are just coming out of hibernation and will start laying eggs, re-establishing food sources and exploring the world around them.
For reptile and amphibian enthusiasts, this means we get to see a lot more wildlife! But it is important to understand that you must resist the temptation to take any wild animals home with you.
There are a great many reasons why you should not bring home any reptiles or amphibians you find in the wild.
Wild animals thrive in their natural habitat. While we are sure you would love your wild friend with all your heart, your friend is just that. Wild. Most animals in pet stores are from breeders have been bred in captivity for generations and are better suited to be your pet.
On top of that, when people take home animals from the wild it’s often an impulse decision. You may be pretty sure about what they need, but not 100 percent sure. As a result, the reptile may have a lower quality of life then what they would have had in their natural environment. Not to mention, caring for a wild animal is a lot more work than people think, and may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Wild animals will be stressed out around you. Wild reptiles and amphibians view you as a predator, and will be very stressed out by your presence. Even if you did meet all their physical needs, they would still remain anxious and unhappy in your home. Being in a constant state of stress can cause serious health problems for reptiles and amphibians, as well as any other wild animal.
Reptiles bred in captivity, however, are familiar with the sight and smell of humans and will be more comfortable around you.
Many reptiles are protected by state laws. Every state has its own Department of Natural Resources (DNR) which has laws about the collection and possession of certain animals, especially if those animals are threatened or endangered. Unbeknownst to you, that turtle you found by the stream might actually be part of a threatened species and removing him from his home may be illegal and can come with some very serious consequences.
You’re impacting the local reptile and amphibian population. Before you take a wild animal out of their natural habitat, you have to consider the impact that action will have on the local environment and ecosystem. For example, say you “rescue” a reptile or amphibian from the woods, but it turns out your new friend is an expectant mother looking for a place to lay her eggs or give birth. You now have several babies/eggs in your care which require a specific habitat in order to thrive.
Not to mention, you will be keeping your wild friend from finding a mate and contributing to the gene pool. If you want the best for your local population of reptiles and amphibians, you should leave them be.
Wild animals are more likely to carry diseases. Nature can get pretty gross. You don’t know what your wild friend has been eating, where he’s been or the things he’s seen. Due to this and stress from being in captivity, they become ill easily. Veterinary bills for reptile specialists can be costly, and your new friend will most likely need to be seen. Best to play it safe.
Deciding If A Wild Reptile Needs Your HelpMany people assume that if they find a baby or juvenile reptile alone, it needs help being cared for. Reptiles can care for themselves the moment they hatch and are a-okay making their way in the world without mom or dad.
Most reptiles are capable of moving quickly across the road without getting into too much trouble. Even turtles, though the journey may take a little while, don’t need help crossing the road if there isn’t heavy traffic. If you must move a turtle they should be handled carefully by gripping the rear margins of the upper and lower shells behind the hind legs. This is the best way to hold them comfortably and to be sure you won’t get nipped at. Only enter the road yourself if conditions are safe.
If for some reason there is a snake in the road who is content to stay in an unsafe location, you’ll need a long stick or object. Gently nudge them off to the side of the road or until they are out of the dangerous area. Do not use your hands to nudge them to safety. You may be trying to help but the snake does not know that.
What You Should Do If You See Reptiles OutsideAppreciate them! Observe them in their natural environment, take a picture, or do your best wildlife documentary impression! Just don’t remove them from their home -- they’ll appreciate you more for it.