Legal stuff

All native reptiles are protected in Australia. It's illegal to interfere (e.g., catch, chase, poke, wrangle, lick) with any native reptile unless you have a permit from the relevant fauna authority. Of course, it's fine if you run over a snake. It's fine if you bulldoze a couple of hectares for a housing estate. It's perfectly legal for you to leave your cat outside where it can eat hundreds of native animals yearly.1 It's fine if you kill a venomous snake because you 'fear for your life'. But woe betide anyone who picks up a wild lizard...

Legal nonsense aside, you can still enjoy herping in a safe and legal manner. Here are some points to remember:

It is illegal to pick up a wild reptile
If you find an injured reptile, you're generally allowed to catch it and take it to a licensed fauna carer. There might be a certain period of time after which you must have passed on the animal.
If you find a healthy reptile on the road, it is technically still illegal to pick up that animal and move it off the road. The law might be a little murky in the situation where you persuade the animal to move off the road without actually touching it (e.g., by moving behind it and scaring it off). In saying that, fauna authorities would be very unlikely to pursue legal action if all you were doing was moving an animal off the road. It would, however, look suspicious if you had hooks and jiggers and bags in the car.

It's my understanding that it's legal to look for reptiles under logs, rocks, etc (an activity known in the USA as 'flipping'), as long as you're on private land and you have the landholder's permission. Of course, once you've found an animal under a rock, you're not allowed to touch it.
It is most definitely not legal to flip in National Parks and on other crown land.

It's not illegal to photograph a wild reptile
You can look, but don't touch.
Some states (e.g., Queensland) may require that you have a photography permit if you intend to take pictures for a commercial purpose in a National Park.

Trapping for reptiles
With the appropriate permit, it's legal to use various trapping methods to catch reptiles. I imagine it's illegal to set up, without a permit, a trap specifically to catch protected fauna.

I wrote this. I'm not a lawyer. This page offers my opinion and interpretation of the law. The information on this page is not to be relied on. You should talk to a lawyer if you need to know about this stuff in detail.


  1. Read, J. & Bowen, Z. (2001). Population dynamics, diet and aspects of the biology of feral cats and foxes in arid South Australia. Wildlife Research, 28(2):195-203.

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