The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) has proposed new laws regarding importing and keeping certain reptile, mammal, and bird species in North Carolina. The most urgent topics for herpetoculture in this proposal are bans on all tegu species and an import permit requirement for native species such as corn snakes, which are a very common beginner pet snake. This proposal also includes changes to native turtle regulations. Similar bans have been successful in neighboring states such as South Carolina and Florida so we will need full, professional participation of the reptile-keeping community to prevent further legislative overreach that prohibits responsible herpetoculture practices here in our state of North Carolina.
The goal of The North Carolina Association of Reptile Keepers (NCARK) in this matter is to work closely with NCWRC to ensure the rights of private reptile keepers are preserved by establishing ecologically sound management practices and fair regulations that protect responsible keepers; this will require full participation of the North Carolina reptile keeping community as NCARK spearheads efforts to safeguard our rights.
Here are the hearing dates, times, and locations on this matter. As always we must maintain a unified, professional, polite demeanor at all times when in discussions with and in our correspondence to North Carolina lawmakers and NCWRC officials. Remember, our goal is to work with these entities, so treat discussions as if we are on the same team working towards a common goal; maintaining a respectable place at the table is paramount to ensuring our voice is heard clearly and concisely.
Please take the time to read and understand the proposal as written prior to responding. It is essential that efforts be focused on specific points that actually impact the legislation and not confuse the discussion with unrelated topics.
Full NCWRC proposal: http://ncark.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/NC-regs-2022.pdf
NCWRC Regulation/Rule Process: http://ncark.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/NC-regs-2022.pdf
PUBLIC HEARINGS,There will be three in-person hearings:
Date: January 11, 2022
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: New Bern, NC (Courthouse, room 4) 302 Broad St, New Bern, NC.
Date: January 13, 2022
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Asheboro, NC (Southwest Randolph High School, Auditorium) 1641 Hopewell Friends Rd, Asheboro, NC 27205.
Date: January 18, 2022
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Marion, NC (McDowell Technical College, Auditorium) 54 College Dr., Marion, NC 28752. The auditorium is located in
the Cedar Building
Date: January 20, 2022
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Register Online at https://ncwildlife-org.zoomgov.com/…/WN… Webinar ID 160
983 2165 US: +1 669 254 5252 or 833 568 8864 (Toll Free)
WHERE TO SUBMIT COMMENTS:
Comments submitted by mail: Rulemaking Coordinator, 1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699
Talking Points and sample messaging can be found at https://usark.org/2022-ncrules/.
1. IMPORTATION OF WILD ANIMALS AND BIRDS (15A NCAC 10B .0101 I) pages 3-4: Currently, NCWRC requires an import permit before bringing (importing) any ” live wild bird or wild animal” into North Carolina. NCWRC has proposed to amend this rule to read “live wild bird, wild animal, or any native reptile or amphibian.” Some native species are common in herpetoculture and have been bred under human care for decades (i.e. corn snakes). The rule name will change from IMPORTATION OF WILD ANIMALS AND BIRDS to IMPORTATION OF WILD ANIMALS, BIRDS, AND NATIVE REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS. NCWRC has this definition for wild animals: Game animals; furbearing animals; feral swine; and all other wild mammals except marine mammals found in coastal fishing waters. In addition, this definition includes members of the following groups which are on the federal list of endangered or threatened species: wild amphibians, wild reptiles except sea turtles inhabiting and depending upon coastal fishing waters, and wild invertebrates… Wild birds: Migratory game birds; upland game birds; and all undomesticated feathered vertebrates.
2. LIMITATIONS ON CERTAIN EXOTIC SPECIES (15A NCAC 10B .0123) pages 6-7: These species will be listed as prohibited: Tegu (genera Salvator and Tupinambis) and Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactlyus planirostris). Persons with those species prior to August 1, 2022, may “retain, transport, transfer, or export” those animals that were previously held but future acquisitions, breeding, and sales would be illegal.
3. COMMERCIAL TAKE OF CERTAIN TURTLES PROHIBITED (15A NCAC 10H .1301) page 39: A change to the current native turtle sales prohibition has been proposed. The current rule will be replaced with this text, “Buying or selling any native turtle species is prohibited except for snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) with a curved carapace length of 13 inches or greater as authorized by 15A NCAC 10B .0119.” The rule name will change from COMMERCIAL TAKE OF CERTAIN TURTLES PROHIBITED to SALE OF NATIVE TURTLES. Currently, commercial taking is illegal for many native turtle species. “Commercial taking” is defined as the taking, possession, collection, transportation, purchase or sale of five or more individuals. This currently includes 11 species and 1 subspecies (all native species in the families Emydidae and Trionychidae). The new rule would expand this prohibition to all native species. Also, currently, a scientific collection license is required to collect more than four turtles.
4. POSSESSION OF REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS (15A NCAC 10H .1302 P) pages 39-40: This rule has some new language including “per physical address” and “Possession permits are required for the rehabilitation of native reptiles and amphibians.”
5. WILDLIFE COLLECTORS (15A NCAC 10B .0119) pages 5-6: Changes to the Wildlife Collection License.
These can be used in your comments. Please edit and personalize.
- If NCWRC must regulate tegus, a common-sense approach should be established in cooperation with NC’s reptile keepers through NCARK to allow responsible keepers and breeders continue trade activities.
- Reptile enthusiasts want to protect our State’s environment while working with NCWRC on non-native species issues to protect our rights.
- Tegus can be bred and sold in North Carolina while still protecting the State’s environment.
- Tegus can and are kept responsibly without harming North Carolina’s wildlife and environment.
- Irresponsible persons should be punished but a ban on all future breeding, sales, or ownership is overreaching and unjust to future generations of NC herpetoculture.
- Responsible herpetoculturists want to address problems but NCWRC should realize that we responsible keepers are not the problem.
- A ban without common-sense exemptions and permits will create additional issues, such as creating an underground black market or causing additional releases.
- Bans on private ownership have been proven to be a financial burden to the State, as well as to law enforcement, while consistently failing to prevent ownership or protect the environment.
- Current, responsible breeders should be allowed to continue if they have proper caging that prevents escapes.
- Non-Profit Organizations such as NCARK and USARK exist to educate reptile enthusiasts on best practices for keeping animals such as tegus responsibly.
- NCWRC’s proposal to require importation permits for state native reptiles and amphibians seems draconian and arbitrary.
- Some native species, like the corn snake, have been bred by herpetoculturists for several decades. The animals found in trade are bred under human care and not collected from the wild.
- Many good people will be violating the law as they will be unaware that they need an import permit to buy an albino corn snake from a breeder/seller in another state. Why would someone think they needed a permit to buy a pet corn snake?
- Corn snakes and some other state native herps are common pets but those buying these animals are buying animals bred under human care and not collected from the wild.
- If NCWRC can show that this import permit requirement is critical to protect wild animals, then there should be exceptions for certain species including snakes under a certain length, morphs (animals not displaying wild phenotypes), animals that have been born under human care, etc.
- Any importation permit should be easy to attain and not buried under oppressive paperwork and hoops to jump through.
- There are literally tens of thousands of corn snakes kept as pets in the U.S. With at least five million households keeping pet reptiles and corn snakes being in the top ten commonly kept species for decades, it is easy to see why this importation permit requirement could cause issues, and this is just one species found in trade that would be included.
- Regarding the changes to 15A NCAC 10H .1301 and native turtle sales, there should be exemptions for those breeding native species who are not taking animals from the wild.
- Captive breeding of native species has been shown to actually reduce stressors upon native populations. Even the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has stated this publicly.
- Breeders and farms producing native turtles have been shown to have benefits for wild populations rather than harms.
- The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized that turtle breeding/farming can alleviate the harvest of wild animals and provides a means to serve international markets without affecting wild populations.
- State-authorized breeding/farming operations using captive broodstock or otherwise legally acquired turtles should be allowed and excepted.
Remember to be civil and professional! Please edit/personalize your letters. This is just a sample. Please do not simply copy and paste. Let your voice be heard.
NCWRC Commissioners and Staff,
I write today as a North Carolina resident opposing certain proposed rule changes to Title 15A regarding reptiles and amphibians (AKA herps). I am concerned with my state’s native animals and environment but I cannot support overreaching measures that infringe upon my rights as a responsible citizen and animal owner.
I oppose the proposed ban listing the species of Salvator and Tupinambis, known as tegus, under 15A NCAC 10B .0123. I fully support protecting our North Carolina natural resources and wildlife. However, as there is currently no evidence that tegus are capable of breeding or surviving the climate long-term in this state, this proposal represents a solution for which there is no problem. Tegus can be kept safely and responsibly in North Carolina without posing a risk to our environment. I am for regulations that make sense and protect our environment without jeopardizing ownership rights of citizens of this state. This proposal does not make sense and is an undue infringement on the rights of North Carolinians.
Responsible herpetoculturists are not the problem in North Carolina and never have been. Instead, it has always been those who do not obey the laws we already have who have posed an issue. Therefore, there is no reason to stop the ownership, trade, and commercialization of tegus. If NCWRC can show through peer-reviewed science that there is a legitimate risk for tegus to become established in North Carolina, then there are better alternatives than a ban. PIT tagging and/or permitting can create more responsibility and liability on the owners of tegus. If an animal is released or has escaped, we would now have an individual on record to hold responsible and penalize. This would hold negligent owners accountable without punishing the responsible ones. This ban will cause more harm than good. Bans such as this have consistently been both costly and ineffective, as they create a financial burden for the state, a burden for law enforcement, and do little to stop illegal ownership. Further, without making provision for any animals seized under an enacted ban, it could easily lead to broad scale euthanization.
Ultimately, it is unfair to completely end the trade of a species where supporting science for environmental impact is lacking and where common-sense alternatives such as PIT tagging and permitting are applicable. Tegus are easily trapped so the odd escape or release, which will be curtailed or ended through common-sense ownership and sales regulation, does not pose a severe risk to our native fauna, citizens, or agriculture.
While the current proposed language does consider those people currently keeping pet tegus and allows those animals to be grandfathered, it does nothing to consider current breeders and businesses. Some businesses/breeders will have extensive losses if this passes without additional language. As this new regulation provides for no restitution to businesses that will suffer substantial financial loss, I do not see how NCWRC can present this regulation without their consideration. Current businesses and breeders, which is only a small handful in our state, that can and have demonstrated their ability to prevent escape should be allowed to be grandfathered, also. If not, this is a rather unjust and unfair regulation that hurts small business and deprives future generations of North Carolinians.
Regarding the expanded ban on buying and selling native turtles, exemptions should be made for those breeding native species who are not taking animals from the wild, along with exemptions for buying turtles bred under human care. Captive breeding of native species has been shown to actually reduce stressors upon native populations. Even the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized that turtle breeding/farming can alleviate the harvest of wild animals and provides a means to serve international markets without affecting wild populations. Breeders and farms producing native turtles have been shown to have benefits for wild populations rather than harms. Every turtle born and bred in captivity is one not taken from the wild, and captive bred populations of native turtles may be reintroduced to support wild turtle populations. State-authorized breeding/farming operations using captive broodstock or otherwise legally acquired turtles should be allowed and excepted.
NCWRC’s proposal to require importation permits for state native reptiles and amphibians is superfluous and arbitrary. Some native species, such as corn snakes, have been bred by herpetoculturists for decades, and now exist in domestic phenotypes (referred to as “morphs”), that bear little resemblance to any wild snakes in this state and would be unsuited for survival in the wild. The animals found in trade are bred under human care and not collected from the wild. Many good people will be violating the law as they will be unaware that they need an import permit to buy an albino corn snake from a breeder/seller in another state. Why would someone think a permit was required to buy a pet corn snake? Captive bred corn snakes have been available in most pet stores for generations.
Corn snakes and some other state native species such as eastern rat snakes are common pets. Those buying these animals are buying animals bred under human care and not collected from the wild, and are typically interested in domestic phenotypes, not the wild form of these animals. If NCWRC can show that this import permit requirement is critical to protect wild animals, there should be exceptions for certain species including snakes under a certain length, morphs (animals not displaying wild phenotypes), animals that have been born under human care, etc. If this rule passes, any importation permit should be easy to attain and not buried under oppressive paperwork and hoops to jump through. Tens of thousands of corn snakes are kept as pets in the U.S. At least five million American households keep pet reptiles. Corn snakes have been one of the top ten most commonly kept species for decades, making it easy to see why this importation permit requirement could cause widespread issues. This is only one species commonly found in trade that would require a permit. The burden to keepers and the state alike would be massive.
I am asking that NCWRC work with responsible herpetoculturists to come up with better alternatives to these proposed regulations. We are willing to work with you and make sensible regulations. Non-Profit Organizations such as NCARK and USARK are willing and able to assist the state in drafting common sense legislation that will protect our environment as well as the rights of North Carolina’s reptile keepers.. Thank you for taking the time to read this email and I look forward to speaking with you further. Have a good day.