Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 21, 2017


Dr. Ken Nussear, University of Nevada, Reno, (775)-784-6612,         
Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 483-0449,

Dozens of Scientists Push Nevada to Ban Commercial Reptile Collection

LAS VEGAS— A group of 48 scientists with expertise in reptile ecology today urged the state of Nevada to institute a permanent ban on the commercial collection of reptiles. The letter comes days before wildlife officials meet to consider a ban on the practice.

In today’s letter to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, the group details how bad snaring and trapping reptiles is for the state’s wildlife. “These snakes and lizards are an important part of the desert food web, consuming insects and other invertebrates while acting as prey for mid- to upper-level predators. They are an integral part of Nevada’s vibrant desert ecosystems,” the scientists wrote.

Nevada currently permits the unrestricted collection of reptiles for commercial gain. This has resulted in losses of almost 15,000 reptiles each year from Nevada’s public lands. Officials from the Nevada Department of Wildlife have presented data suggesting population declines in heavily collected areas and asked the state’s wildlife commission to take action.

“Nevada is the only state in the western U.S. to permit this practice, making it an outlier in managing its wildlife resources,” said Dr. Ken Nussear, herpetologist and assistant professor of geography at the University of Nevada, Reno. “In light of the unique reptile community in the state, the indicators that commercial collection may be impacting population levels and the broader context of global threats to reptiles, we are encouraging the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to ban this practice.”

At its meeting this Saturday in Las Vegas, the commission will consider either instituting limits on collection, such as by species or season, or an outright end to the practice. With no data to demonstrate how limited collection would be sustainable, scientists are pushing for the full ban.

“Globally, herpetofauna face numerous stressors including climate change, overexploitation and habitat loss, which is driving localized extinctions and may be foretelling of broader declines,” said Dr. James Hanken, professor of zoology and curator of herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. “Wildlife managers need to support the conservation of reptiles, so we are asking for a permanent ban on commercial collection in Nevada.”

“Wildlife commissioners should have an easy decision on Saturday,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to ban this utterly unsustainable practice. Our own wildlife managers have suggested there’s a problem, and the scientific community agrees that banning commercial collection is the only scientifically defensible choice.”

You can download the letter from scientists here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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