Catching and Selling California’s Wild Snakes

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (USFWS photo)

Question: My 11-year-old son is interested in catching snakes to make some money for the summer. Are there any requirements? I am wondering about the regulations, permits and licenses needed to catch or sell wild snakes in California. I have read and believe I understand all of the regulations pertaining to this but I want to be sure.  Please verify:

I must have a standard resident fishing license and can catch them by hand or with a snake hook, snake tongs or a lizard noose. I am allowed four gopher snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) and four common kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula). In most other cases, I am permitted to catch and possess two snakes of other species unless otherwise posted.

I understand that I can catch these at any time, day or night, and at any time of year. I also understand that I can kill rattlesnakes at any time of year, with or without a license, in any manner.

I also understand that if I purchase a Native Reptile Captive Propagation Permit I would be authorized to, for commercial purposes or non-commercial purposes, sell, possess, transport, import, export or propagate native reptiles.

If my son or I caught a gopher snake by hand in a national forest, could I legally hold it for three days in a home terrarium and then sell it to a pet store? Is there anything wrong with this? Are there other permits or licenses not mentioned but that I am responsible for?

Where can I find the details and what all is entailed in purchasing a Native Reptile Captive Propagation Permit?  How do I know I am obeying all the rules? (Brett)

Answer: No reptiles taken under the authority of a sport fishing license may be sold. Only the offspring of rosy boas, California king snakes and gopher snakes can be sold under a Native Reptile Captive Propagation permit.

A person with a Biological Supply House permit may collect a variety of species, but can only sell to science or educational institutions.

According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Capt. Phil Nelms, any person under the age of 16 may take and possess their own limit of the reptiles and amphibian species listed in the Fresh Water Sport Fishing Regulations, but they may not sell them. They are not required to obtain a Sport Fishing License.

Reptiles taken from the wild and held or hatched in captivity may not be returned to the wild.

For more information regarding the requirements, fees and application process for obtaining a Native Reptile Captive Propagation Permit, please go to

Throw nets
Question: I cannot find anything in the ocean regulations pertaining to net casting. Is it legal to use a net to catch bait fish between Morro Bay and Pismo Beach? (Dewey S.)

Answer: Throw nets may be used in that area, but only for herring, Pacific staghorn sculpin, shiner surfperch, surf smelt, topsmelt, anchovies, shrimp or squid. The regulation says throw nets may be used only north of Point Conception for those species (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.80).

Game Feeders
Question: Can game feeders be used on private property if pulled down prior to hunting or the beginning of hunting season? (D. Corvello)

Answer: No. Feeding wildlife with a game feeder in California is illegal for several reasons.  First, game feeders usually broadcast grain on a timer system and are primarily designed for big game. The feeding of big game is specifically prohibited by regulation (CCR Title 14, section 251.3). Second, feeding wild animals in a manner that changes their behavior is considered harassment (CCR Title 14, section 251.1). Finally, there are strict rules regarding bait, the definition of a baited area and the restrictions that apply to the take of wildlife related to a feeder (CCR Title 14, section 257.5).

Shotgun plugs for target and skeet shooting?
Question: I have a question concerning target and skeet shooting. If I am out shooting on private property (not hunting), am I required to leave the plug in my shotgun? I bought a Mossberg 12-gauge eight-shot shotgun and it was not plugged. (Louie G.)

Answer: California Fish and Game laws restrict the capacity of shotguns when used to take birds and mammals. Fish and Game laws do not restrict the possession and use of firearms for any other purpose.

If the firearm you purchased is otherwise legal under California and U.S. law, then you may use it for target shooting.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

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