State law currently allows the collection of four eastern box turtles.
The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina), one of the most collected reptile species in the state of West Virginia, may soon be illegal to collect from the wild, as the state is considering regulations that would ban their collection as well as 17 other reptile and amphibian species. Current law allows for the possession of four box turtles.
The regulation, proposed by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, would set the bag limit to zero for the iconic turtle, as well as other species, including the eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos), smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis), northern rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus), red corn snake (Pantherophis guttata), and timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).
The proposed regulation may run into resistance from religious folks who handle rattlesnakes, as they would be unable to worship without the venomous reptiles.
“We’ve been working closely with [Division of Natural Resources] law enforcement section to make sure we don’t infringe on people’s ability to worship with snakes if they choose to do so,” Kevin Oxenrider, a biologist with the Division of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage section told WVNews. “We plan to work with the attorney general to make sure people have access to those animals for [snake-handling] purposes.”
The proposed regulation would enable people to collect rattlesnakes for scientific and or educational purposes.
“In addition, people who study rattlesnakes for scientific purposes, or who need them on hand at educational facilities, could still request permission to collect them,” he said. “It also would be legal for landowners to kill rattlers that they consider a threat to the people who live on the property.”
For box turtles, though there would be no exceptions as the state has experienced a severe decline in the reptiles.
“Their numbers are down throughout their range in North America,” Oxenrider said. “They’re particularly susceptible to illegal collecting for the pet trade. One man in Maryland was caught with more than 1,000 of them.”