I don't know if states have an obligation to post their laws online, necessarily, but they definitely have the inclination. I can't see what would be the benefit of NOT having them posted on the government homepage, considering the relatively minute space taken up by text files.....in any case, all laws and statutes are available on the NJ Legislature's website, so I did a little reading. Here are the sections of 'Title 23: Fish and Game, Wild Birds and Animals' that I found that pertain to this discussion (I omitted lines that don't relate directly to the taking or handling of wildlife):
For the purposes of this act, unless the context clearly requires a different meaning:
d. "Nongame species" means any wildlife for which a legal hunting or trapping season has not been established or which has not been classified as an endangered species by statute or regulation of this State;
e. "Take" means to harass, hunt, capture, kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, wildlife;
f. "Wildlife" means any wild mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, mollusk, crustacean or other wild animal or any part, product, egg or offspring or the dead body or parts thereof.
23:2A-6. Taking, possession, transportation, sale of endangered species or regulated nongame species
Except as otherwise provided in this act or regulations adopted thereunder, no person shall take, possess, transport, export, process, sell or offer for sale, or ship, and no common or contract carrier shall knowingly transport or receive for shipment any species or subspecies of wildlife appearing on the following lists: (1) the list of wildlife determined to be endangered by the commissioner pursuant to this act; (2) the list of nongame species regulated pursuant to this act; and (3) any Federal list of endangered species. Any species or subspecies of wildlife appearing on any of the foregoing lists which enters the State from another state or from a point outside the territorial limits of the United States and which is transported across the State destined for a point beyond the State may be so entered and transported without restriction in accordance with the terms of any Federal permit or permit issued under the laws or regulations of another state."
To get more details on "exotic and nongame species" covered by the statute, you have to go to the NJDEP:
"In New Jersey, statutes are implemented through rules that are codified in the New Jersey Administrative Code (the Code) (other states and the Federal government generally refer to their rules as “regulations”). The rules that are utilized by the Department of Environmental Protection and other environmental agencies are codified at Title 7 of the Code."
Chapter 25 of Title 7 "governs the management and harvest of fish and wildlife within the State:"
"7:25-4.2 Permit required
(a) Except as hereinafter provided, no person shall possess any nongame species or exotic species of any mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian unless such person has first received both the appropriate permit from the Department as listed in N.J.A.C. 7:25 4.6(a) as well as any other state, municipal, or Federal permits or licenses which may be required to possess such species....
7:25-4.4 Exempted species
(a) The following listed species of exotic or nongame mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians may be possessed in this State without a permit.
i. American anole-Anolis carolinensis;
ii. Common iguana-Iguana iguana;
iii. Boa constrictor-Constrictor constrictor;
iv. Eastern painted turtles-Chrysemys picta picta;
v. Snapping turtles-Chelydra serpentina;
vi. Fence lizard-Sceloporus occidentalis & undulatus;
vii. Garter snake-Thamnophia spp. (except T. sirtalis tetrataenia);
viii. Tokay gecko-Gekko gecko;
ix. Ribbon snake-Thamnophis spp. (except T. sirtalis tetrataenia).
i. Leopard frogs-Rana pipiens;
ii. Green frogs-Rana clamitans;
iii. American toad-Bufo woodhousei americana;
iv. Fowler's toad-B. w. fowleri;
v. Bullfrogs-Rana catesbiana;
vi. Red newts-Notophthalmus viridescens;
vii. Dusky salamanders-Desmognathus fuscus."
SO, after all that....
seem like NJ law prohibits handling or otherwise bothering herps. Title 7:25 is a bit sloppily written, and fails to distinguish between "take" and "possess" (although it does address scientific collection in the section on permits), but it seems clear that "the list of nongame species regulated pursuant to" Statute 23:2A includes basically everything except the handful of native species listed in "exempted species." Statute 23:2A is pretty clear about the definition of "take," however, and includes not only capture but also "harass" and "attempt to harass." That would make even "scaring (a snake) into the roadside brush" as against the law as picking the snake up, as the law is written.
I agree, ackee, that Title 7:25 seems to be written with the intent of addressing professionals (pet dealers, scientists, exterminators) rather than hobbyists. It's a shame the law doesn't add the few small lines of text it would take to cover herping activity more unambiguously. Being a huge insect nerd in addition to a herper, I know very well the feeling of being in that legal no-man's-land of pursuing an activity that the law hasn't yet really considered properly. Several years ago, I was netting dragonflies (catch, photograph, release) in a state park in Florida. Three separate rangers approached me, and the same interaction occurred three times. The ranger told me collecting insects was forbidden in the park, I told the ranger I was photographing and releasing, and he/she told me to carry on and have a nice day. I think they were on the lookout for butterfly poachers more than anything else.
As for the NJ law (and this is now an assessment based on opinion rather than citation), my feeling is that casual handling of non-dangerous nongame wildlife isn't specifically addressed in the law because the lawmakers don't really give a damn. I think they want the cops to be able to stop animal-related activities that are blatantly dangerous, disruptive, or immoral, and they don't really care about your everyday snake- or frog-catcher. In any case, if you are herping in NJ, the odds are very strong that you are on public land that is already covered by its own agency with its own set of wildlife rules. No cop is going to give you a summons for catching herps in your own backyard or in the parking lot at Wendy's, and if they give you a citation for moving a turtle off the road, it will be a traffic violation, not a wildlife violation.
Sorry about the long post, but I actually kind of enjoyed looking this up, and I did end up learning something new. For anyone who cares, here is the link to NJ permanent statutes - http://lis.njleg.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/om ... Frame_Pg42
and here's a link to the NJ Administrative Code - http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/njcode/