Field Herping is the act of observing reptiles and amphibians in the wild. The following list of recommendations will help ensure that while people are out observing these species, they are not inadvertently harming the animals or their habitats in the process.
Salamanders and frogs should not be handled or mauled. These amphibians have very absorbent skins and the oils and salts from human hands can seriously harm them. Chemicals on the hands such as insect repellents, sunblock, and lotions can further cause damage and even cause death. The risk of skin damage that could result in secondary skin infections, as well as bone and muscle injuries from struggling are also a threat.
Furthermore, when searching for salamanders it is important not to attempt to flip or turn over rocks or logs that are wedged deep into the ground – as this can destroy sensitive micro-habitats. After flipping light surface cover, individuals can gently nudge the salamander’s tail so it will move to the adjacent area before the cover is returned. This will ensure the salamander is not crushed. Make sure to not be wearing ANY chemicals (i.e sunblock, bug repellents) on the hands. Bug jackets, tick garters, lint rollers (for tick checks), hats, and sunglasses, eliminate the need for such chemicals when herping. Always make sure cover is returned exactly as you found it. Do not destroy old logs or strip away bark from dead wood or trees to find species.
The micro-habitats under cover objects (rocks, logs) have very specific conditions (moisture levels, temperatures, etc). As such, do not flip the same cover objects over and over. This can disrupt such conditions.
If you encounter a breeding pool of amphibians be sure to admire this from the shoreline only. Entering the pool can disturb the salamanders, frogs, and potentially kill them, or destroy their eggs when they are crushed under foot.
When out in natural areas herpers should avoid stepping on flat boards and logs that are placed on trails. Such cover often attracts salamanders and other animals (snakes, small lizards). Such objects are often placed on trails where dips or depressions occur as these areas often become muddy and mucky. As such trail users may set cover down here to make ‘bridges’. Unfortunately, salamanders may then use these boards and logs as cover. When people step on them the salamanders can become crushed and killed. Therefore, to prevent accidental kills, people are encouraged not to step on cover that is laid on trails or paths, but to instead bring rubber boots, water shoes, or other appropriate footwear so they can navigate through soggy spots. Individuals can also help by not putting out their own cover on trails.
Do not move, transport and release reptiles and amphibians from one field site to another.
Not removing animals from the wild and being discreet with areas that are home to rare species is very important.
Reptiles and Amphibians (herptiles) are often illegally collected from the wild for the pet trade, personal pets, and bait. Herptile species are also collected for food (snakes, turtles, and mudpuppy salamanders are just a few species that have turned up in food markets in North America alone). Herptiles are a also often killed due to fear (especially snakes). As such herpers are encouraged to post photos of their findings, but not exact locations.
When out, if you encounter research equipment or set-ups, do not disturb these. Interference could alter results, which could affect important conservation efforts to help reptiles and amphibians.
Those who partake in field herping are encouraged to take steps to try and prevent the spread of Bsal/Bd fungus. These fungi can rapidly kill amphibians. According to Amphibiaweb, cleaning boots and field equipment (such as dipnets) with a 10% Clorox (bleach) solution in water is one of the most common (and inexpensive) ways to prevent inadvertent transportation of Bd by humans. Make sure to disinfect and thoroughly rinse (as bleach is toxic) between sites. For more information on disinfecting protocols, click here.