Sorry! A TX herp law question

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DracoRJC
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Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by DracoRJC » August 2nd, 2012, 5:32 pm

I'm heading down to TX for a week soon, and I have a few opportunities to get out, and a few places in mind. Three of my spots are state parks, one a national forest, and one my uncle's private property in east TX. I want to abide by the law and stay safe, so I am not bringing my hook. When on state or park land, I fully intend on not handling herps, especially protected species should I encounter them. I am simply a hiker who has stumbled upon a snake and has a camera. I may shoo a snake off of a public road or park trail to keep it safe, but I'm not a guy who will go tearing up logs in a state park and posing herps all over the place. I do not plan on roadcruising other than going from point A to B.

Handling herps is, presumably, illegal regardless of the herp stamp when on state or national park land, correct? And on my uncle's property, I would presumably not need it as well? So unless I stumble upon a random copperhead on a public road, the herp stamp would not cover me on any of my intended destinations, correct?

From what I understand, the stamp would only cover me when roadcrusing on public roads and herping public (NOT state or park) land. Please don't get me wrong, if I were a resident I would immediately purchase a permit!

Sorry to start a possibly controversial topic (I've posted about this before) but I just want to be safe rather than sorry, without wasting money on something that wouldn't cover me anyway.

John Williams
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by John Williams » August 2nd, 2012, 6:51 pm

Honestly, my opinion would be to just not worry about the stamp and go do what you want, state parks and national lands aside. All but west Texas is un-patrolled and has yet, to my knowledge, had any incidents with law enforcement (regarding the new laws). I have a stamp and am lawful but I have yet to present that to law enforcement and don't know of anyone who has in this part of the state. You can do whatever you want on private land and the roadcruising laws seem to be geared towards walking cuts in addition to cruising. So save your money, don't mess with anything in protected lands, and don't collect.

John

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chris_mcmartin » August 2nd, 2012, 7:01 pm

DracoRJC wrote:I want to abide by the law and stay safe, so I am not bringing my hook.
A hook in your vehicle is no more criminal than a fishing rod...doesn't mean you're doing anything illegal just by having certain equipment in your vehicle. Unfortunately, for an out-of-stater who probably doesn't have the opportunity to return for a court date, caving in to a ticket is the easier route when such a situation arises...and it then sets a (very sad) precedent.

When on state or park land, I fully intend on not handling herps, especially protected species should I encounter them.
Then you didn't need the "especially" qualifier...you either are going to abide by the law (don't touch anything in parks), or you're not. 8-)

I may shoo a snake off of a public road . . . to keep it safe
By the letter of the current law, this is illegal. Your intention does not factor in, unfortunately. Again, this would probably be easily thrown out of a courtroom (on the off chance you would get cited for it), but that means you'd have to appear. See first response above.
I do not plan on roadcruising other than going from point A to B.
Roadcruising is still verboten, again by the letter of the law. :(


[quoteHandling herps is, presumably, illegal regardless of the herp stamp when on state or national park land, correct? [/quote]

Yes.
And on my uncle's property, I would presumably not need it as well?
Correct.
So unless I stumble upon a random copperhead on a public road, the herp stamp would not cover me on any of my intended destinations, correct?
The stamp would not cover you on a public road either. If you touch something, chase something, or shoo something on/off the road, you are technically--technically--in violation of the current law. The "victory" the herping community enjoyed last year only returns WALKING the rights-of-way to our repertoire of herping methods--the road, including the "improved shoulder," is still off-limits.
From what I understand, the stamp would only cover me when roadcrusing on public roads
No, it still won't. 8-)

I just want to be safe rather than sorry, without wasting money on something that wouldn't cover me anyway.
From the situations you describe (photography-only on park land, herping--handling--only on private land), the stamp won't help you. HOWEVER, even if you don't touch something on a road or right-of-way, having the proper paperwork just in case someone finds reason to question your activity isn't necessarily a bad idea. But then you'd also need to be wearing a reflective vest...

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chrish
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chrish » August 2nd, 2012, 8:20 pm

Agreeing with both John and Chris here....

You are breaking the law by roadcruising, but in the eastern half of the state you aren't going to have a problem. There isn't really any enforcement of the road cruising ban other than in a few areas of west (and some areas of south) Texas. I've never heard of anyone getting a ticket for roadhunting in the eastern half of the state and it has been considered illegal for most of the last 30 years or so....and I've done quite a bit of roadhunting in SE Texas.

That said, be aware that if you do get stopped while roadcruising, you are breaking the law and theoretically could get a ticket. Think of it like driving 5 miles over the speed limit. Yes, it is illegal, but under most circumstances you aren't going to get cited for it.

As for the license/stamp, I disagree with John here. You can get a 5 day non-resident hunting license for $48 (license number 157). Think if it as paying a $10 fee per day to herp legally. As we said, you aren't likely to be bothered about roadhunting in eastern Texas as long as you aren't impeding traffic or breaking other laws (driving on the shoulder, etc), you shouldn't have a problem about that. But if you are pulled over by a game warden somewhere, you will probably be asked for your hunting license. Again, low probability, but I have been asked for my hunting license while herping in Eastern TX once or twice. You just need to weight the risks against the cost.

I think herpers should always get the correct licenses and stamps. By doing so, you let the TPWD department know that herpers come here from out of state and that they are willing to cooperate with the laws. (Of course, saying that after the last statements about roadhunting do represent a little hypocrisy. :? )

I wouldn't worry about having a hook or other gear in my vehicle, but I wouldn't carry it in a park. In the National Forest, you should be OK carrying a hook and having it while roadhunting won't be a problem.

Of course, if it doesn't cool off and rain a bit, you might not have to worry about getting caught manipulating any herps!

Good luck, make sure you post a trip report, and enter all your data into the NAHerp database.

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Soopaman
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Soopaman » August 2nd, 2012, 8:27 pm

So I wasn't aware road cruising was actually illegal. I was under the impression that was the purpose of the hunting license and herp stamp I bought back in April.

Regardless, unaware of this I was actually pulled over road cruising last Saturday. I was pulled over because of spotlighting the road (which was empty, save for the police car pulled to the side). I told them I was hunting for snakes, and they looked at me incredulously and just told me "Good luck, and don't spotlight on the main roads, it disturbs people. The dirt roads are fine. I hope you find a good snake."

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chrish
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chrish » August 2nd, 2012, 8:32 pm

Soopaman wrote:Regardless, unaware of this I was actually pulled over road cruising last Saturday. I was pulled over because of spotlighting the road (which was empty, save for the police car pulled to the side). I told them I was hunting for snakes, and they looked at me incredulously and just told me "Good luck, and don't spotlight on the main roads, it disturbs people. The dirt roads are fine. I hope you find a good snake."
Spotlighting (even with a flashlight) is clearly illegal and is a good way to attract the attention of law enforcement. They normally assume you are spotlighting game. I don't spotlight, period, even if they say it is "fine" on the dirt roads. That's asking for trouble, IMHO.

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VanAR
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by VanAR » August 2nd, 2012, 9:18 pm

It's been a few years since I've been there, but I agree with the points above. Getting a stamp isn't the worst idea, if for no other reason than if you do get pulled over/questioned it's one less thing to worry about.

I'd be cautious in any state or national park. Just like any other state, those areas are usually hands-off to all wildlife, and you could get questioned if you're seen with any collecting/manipulating equipment. State and National Forests usually (not always) are less strict.

I would say roadcruising is only an issue in the very southwest quarter of the state, from El Paso to Del Rio or so. I've roadcruised throughout east, south, and north Texas and never had any issues (actually didn't have any issues in west Texas either). In east or north Texas my experience is that you're more likely to get asked if you're having car issues than anything else.

I always have a hook or tongs in easy reach while roadcruising, and its never been an issue, anywhere.

Van

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gbin
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by gbin » August 3rd, 2012, 5:05 am

I must admit, I really don't get some folks' approach to herp hunting licenses as some kind of a risk assessment exercise. It makes them look bad individually and us look bad as a community.

You intend to use the resource. Presumably you believe the resource should be properly managed. So buy the license (and the stamp if you have any intention whatsoever of hunting the roadways, or even if you just want to help herping be recognized by TPWD) and help pay for that. It's the right thing to do, and it doesn't cost very much.

Gerry

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Gluesenkamp
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Gluesenkamp » August 3rd, 2012, 5:40 am

Like.

dickbartlett
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by dickbartlett » August 3rd, 2012, 6:32 am

That response only works on Facebook, Andy<LOL> dick

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DracoRJC
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by DracoRJC » August 3rd, 2012, 7:00 am

Putting in my payment info for the license as we speak, happy? Money is tighter than ever, so I only wanted to clarify what my money is doing. I figure with the hot and dry conditions lately, I may be forced by lack of success to take to the roads anyway. I've just never needed a permit of any kind before, so I guess it's kind of strange to me.

Look forward to a nice trip report in 2 weeks or so 8-)

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Gluesenkamp
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Gluesenkamp » August 3rd, 2012, 7:27 am

Like.

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gbin
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by gbin » August 3rd, 2012, 9:31 am

x 2!

:thumb:

Gerry

chad ks
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chad ks » August 3rd, 2012, 9:39 am

DracoRJC wrote:Putting in my payment info for the license as we speak, happy? Money is tighter than ever, so I only wanted to clarify what my money is doing. I figure with the hot and dry conditions lately, I may be forced by lack of success to take to the roads anyway. I've just never needed a permit of any kind before, so I guess it's kind of strange to me.

Look forward to a nice trip report in 2 weeks or so 8-)
You don't need to buy a license to photograph, but since you already have…if you aren't collecting anything, you should consider NOT voluntarily informing any possible LE officials that you have it. BC I've purchased one for years without an intention to collect, and when you explain that you're only taking pictures but bought a license…you'll catch some crap.

If you see a snake crossing the road in TX, I think you should just ignore the law and help it off the road. I wouldn't spend any time harassing it or anything, and I wouldn't just pick it up…but coax it off the road. If a Warden sees you stop for a snake, he isn't going to just spring on you immediately. In my experience, a warden will wait and observe, hoping that habeas corpus will be satisfied when you actually collect the snake and he witnesses. Once he sees you move it off the road (again, this is just me reporting on my experiences), he may stop you and want to search and he may give you some crap, but ultimately the wardens are reasonable and he'll let you move on. I've had this exact scenario play out twice, once in southern Brewster CO and the other in Terrell.

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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Jimi » August 3rd, 2012, 1:27 pm

Glad to hear you're buying the license. I always tell folks "just buy the damn thing". Whatever you're doing - just photos, a little bagging, playing it by ear depending on what you see, etc. Just buy it, it's cheap entertainment, the right thing to do, etc etc.

Don't feel as constrained about wildlife interactions on USFS land as "park land" - they're not the same thing. Typically, whatever your hunting or fishing license allows anywhere else in the state, it allows on USFS land. Read "the fine print", but the generality is useful and generally true.

"Private" land concerns the surface estate, sometimes the mineral estate, sometimes first use of the water...and almost never the wildlife (or the air, for that matter). So...hunting and fishing "on your own property" (or your uncle's) requires a license to make use of "the people's property", i.e. to take it for yourself. Differences usually come up if it's a privately-stocked pond or fenced area - those animals can be private property. That's why sometimes you see those "no license required" signs when you're driving by pay-to-play private ponds.

Have fun, be careful, and DO NOT TRESPASS!!! No joke, those folks are batshit about fences and "posted" signs down there. Believe it, they mean it.
Jimi

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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Shane_TX » August 3rd, 2012, 6:09 pm

I disagree with the TX herp endorsement (stamp). If it were a $10 license I would support it.

That being said, most of my disagreement comes from many years of supporting the TPWD in the past via purchase of a combo license that I had no intention of using to anywhere near the full extent. The addition of this tax, which I will not buy next year (and didn't this year), will make me choose only the bare minimum on September 1st. Of course, in the event that I do want to stop on a roadway, I will defer to TXDOT.

Shane (not a west TX regular)

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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chris_mcmartin » August 3rd, 2012, 6:13 pm

Shane_TX wrote:I disagree with the TX herp endorsement (stamp). If it were a $10 license I would support it.

That being said, most of my disagreement comes from many years of supporting the TPWD in the past via purchase of a combo license that I had no intention of using to anywhere near the full extent. The addition of this tax, which I will not buy next year (and didn't this year), will make me choose only the bare minimum on September 1st. Of course, in the event that I do want to collect something on a roadway, I will defer to TXDOT.
I hope you took my "TX Herpers Survey" then...this was addressed in one of the questions, and several responses in the freeform comments also brought it up to varying extent.

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chrish
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chrish » August 4th, 2012, 6:41 am

chad ks wrote:If you see a snake crossing the road in TX, I think you should just ignore the law and help it off the road. I wouldn't spend any time harassing it or anything, and I wouldn't just pick it up…but coax it off the road. If a Warden sees you stop for a snake, he isn't going to just spring on you immediately. In my experience, a warden will wait and observe, hoping that habeas corpus will be satisfied when you actually collect the snake and he witnesses. Once he sees you move it off the road (again, this is just me reporting on my experiences), he may stop you and want to search and he may give you some crap, but ultimately the wardens are reasonable and he'll let you move on. I've had this exact scenario play out twice, once in southern Brewster CO and the other in Terrell.
This is good advice overall, but really only applies in a few counties of Texas (Val Verde, Pecos, Terrell, Brewster, Presidio, Jeff Davis, and maybe Duval and McMullen Counties). In the other 246 Texas counties, it really isn't an issue.

If stopped driving slowly and questioned, you can always say you were listening for frog calls as a participant in the Texas Amphibian Watch program - http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wi ... ad_survey/ - which you should be doing anyway.

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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Paul White » August 4th, 2012, 7:28 am

Erh, I would avoid handling them in state parks. It is verboten. That said, I have "encouraged" a few (dozens) to get off the road by walking towards them--usually they scurry off into the brush no problem. Sometimes a crot will stand and buzz.

There's a lot of discussion over if road cruising is illegal; my take is if I don't touch the animal, I'm probably OK. But if you touch the animal for any reason (including moving it off the road) then you're probably breaking the law. This still royally pisses me off TBH. It's perfectly fine to run over them but I can't move them :roll:


Herping around here has cratered with the heat and the return of the drought but I don't know what part of the state you're going to. Maybe other parts aren't as bad.

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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Shane_TX » August 4th, 2012, 6:53 pm

I hope you took my "TX Herpers Survey" then...this was addressed in one of the questions, and several responses in the freeform comments also brought it up to varying extent.
No, I didn't participate. Good luck with next year's survey.

Shane

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chrish
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chrish » August 4th, 2012, 8:50 pm

Paul White wrote:There's a lot of discussion over if road cruising is illegal; my take is if I don't touch the animal, I'm probably OK. But if you touch the animal for any reason (including moving it off the road) then you're probably breaking the law. This still royally pisses me off TBH. It's perfectly fine to run over them but I can't move them :roll:
Paul,

I think the law is pretty clear on this issue. Road hunting is illegal because (to quote the Texas Hunting Information)
There is no open season for any wild animal, wild bird, or exotic animal on public roads or the right-of-way of public roads, except that the holder of a Reptile and Amphibian Stamp may capture indigenous reptiles or amphibians on the shoulder of a public road or any unpaved area of a public right of way.
So you can't hunt on the road, period. If you are driving down the road looking for animals, you are hunting on the road. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, or that I don't do it, just that it is technically against the law and that law is enforced in a few areas of the state where it is perceived as a problem.

But, according to the way it is spelled out there, if there is a snake on an unpaved shoulder it is fair game, except you can't have been hunting on the paved road when you saw it (Catch 22).

BTW - It is not perfectly fine to run herps either. I know us herpers like to use that as hyperbole, but it isn't true. Running over an animal on the road could be construed as hunting both on the road and with a motor vehicle. People still do, but it is technically illegal.

Chris

Paul White
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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by Paul White » August 5th, 2012, 7:08 am

The way I look at it, just searching isn't hunting--there's no take involved at all. Otherwise everyone taking pictures of deer on the roads in state parks would be breaking the law. There's also the issue of proving intent--I don't know that you can prove I was looking for snakes on the road while I'm driving around at 2 am :)

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Re: Sorry! A TX herp law question

Post by chris_mcmartin » August 5th, 2012, 11:21 am

Paul White wrote:The way I look at it, just searching isn't hunting--there's no take involved at all. Otherwise everyone taking pictures of deer on the roads in state parks would be breaking the law. There's also the issue of proving intent--I don't know that you can prove I was looking for snakes on the road while I'm driving around at 2 am :)
The current (2011-2012, good for less than 30 days now...) edition of the hunting/fishing brochure (TPWD "Outdoor Annual") as well as the TX Parks and Wildlife Code, Section 1.101, defines "hunt" as "To capture, trap, take, or kill, and includes any attempt to capture, trap, take, or kill." This is different than other hunting definitions I've seen (in other states) which include "pursuit" which could be interpreted as any action which impedes or constrains an animal's movement (blocking a snake for a photo as it's trying to move away, or following a toad and causing it to hop faster...). By NOT including "pursuit" it leads me to believe simply "shooing" an animal off the road probably isn't forbidden from a legal standpoint.

That being said, the Outdoor Annual is not necessarily authoritative in its guidance...TPW Code (and other regulations*) are.

Also, if John Q. Herper asks a game warden (or really, any wildlife dept representative), in any state, to answer a question regarding Regulation X, Y, or Z as pertains to herps, he's likely to give his own personal viewpoint/understanding of a regulation** (as I've experienced in the past). Knowing what I know now, I'd probably have asked if the warden was speaking authoritatively on behalf of the respective wildlife department, or if he was just providing his own interpretation, to avoid confusion.

*Example: The Outdoor Annual contradicts itself on page 26, when it says youth (under 17) do not require any special stamps in addition to their hunting license; then a couple of paragraphs down it mentions the Reptile and Amphibian stamp and specifically states "Persons under 17 years of age are not exempt from this stamp." The TPW Code is more clear on this (under 17 need the stamp).

**Example: The Outdoor Annual on page 26, again under Reptile and Amphibian Stamp, says it allows people to catpure herps "on the shoulder of a public road or any unpaved area of a public right of way." However, a person in TPWD said "shoulder" doesn't mean the paved shoulder where people pull over for emergencies. He was interpreting the Transportation Code, 541.302, differently than I think it was intended. That definition says:
(15) "Shoulder" means the portion of a highway that is:
(A) adjacent to the roadway;
(B) designed or ordinarily used for parking;
(C) distinguished from the roadway by different design, construction, or marking; and
(D) not intended for normal vehicular travel.
There is a separate definition for "Improved shoulder" which states "a paved shoulder." Though it's improved, it's still a shoulder and therefore, as I see it, a herper should be able to pick up a reptile or amphibian as long as it's outside the white strip demarcating the shoulder (as per the definition above, part (C)).

This is but one of many ambiguities in the current TPW Code that will need addressing next year...

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