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Old 06-25-19, 11:18 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

I saw some discussion on wild-caught vs. captive-bred on a recent thread that caught my interest.

From what I saw, the consensus is that CB snakes are the way to go given that they are healthier and you are not removing snakes from the natural population.

So, what place do wild-caught snakes/reptiles have in the hobby today? Are there some exceptions where WC could prove beneficial?

Just curious to hear your thoughts.
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Old 06-26-19, 08:28 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

Well, wild caught reptiles may be useful in short term educational programs and seminars. Especially when the audience is children or youngsters. They are also nice to observe for short periods of time, to photograph and study behaviors. So, those would be a couple of the benefits to the hobby. Because remember, the wild population is very beneficial to the farming industries and businesses in controlling rodent infestations.
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Old 06-26-19, 11:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

There seems to be a popular opinion in the herp hobby lately, that collecting wild specimens is always wrong. It isn't. If the animal is of a sustainable species and population, and the individual collecting it is prepared to provide proper care, there is nothing wrong with legal and responsible collecting. They are no different from other wild resources, such as game and fish.
Many newcomers to the hobby seem to be unaware that captive breeding is a relatively new phenomena, and of course, all captive bred species originated with wild caught specimens.
One of the most obvious benefits of WC to the hobby is that it is necessary to bringing new species into the hobby. Of the thousands of species of reptile and amphibians known, only a tiny percentage of them are regularly captive bred.
Another benefit to the hobby is that wild collecting can bring in fresh genetics, to strengthen and/or diversify existing bloodlines. It is also beneficial to those working with "locality" animals.
A third benefit to collecting is that it helps make the connection, for the collector, between captive herps and nature- it puts them in context. Whether a seasoned hobbyist or a young person collecting their first toad to keep as a pet, the more connected we are to these animals in their natural environments, the more invested we will be in their conservation.
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Old 06-26-19, 12:03 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

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Originally Posted by Herpin' Man View Post
There seems to be a popular opinion in the herp hobby lately, that collecting wild specimens is always wrong. It isn't. If the animal is of a sustainable species and population, and the individual collecting it is prepared to provide proper care, there is nothing wrong with legal and responsible collecting. They are no different from other wild resources, such as game and fish.
Many newcomers to the hobby seem to be unaware that captive breeding is a relatively new phenomena, and of course, all captive bred species originated with wild caught specimens.
One of the most obvious benefits of WC to the hobby is that it is necessary to bringing new species into the hobby. Of the thousands of species of reptile and amphibians known, only a tiny percentage of them are regularly captive bred.
Another benefit to the hobby is that wild collecting can bring in fresh genetics, to strengthen and/or diversify existing bloodlines. It is also beneficial to those working with "locality" animals.
A third benefit to collecting is that it helps make the connection, for the collector, between captive herps and nature- it puts them in context. Whether a seasoned hobbyist or a young person collecting their first toad to keep as a pet, the more connected we are to these animals in their natural environments, the more invested we will be in their conservation.
I agree with a good portion you've written. I also disagree with some of it.

1. It isn't like other game and fish. Fish are regularly bred in massive quantities and lakes are stocked with them to keep populations up. Reptiles do not have this, at all, yet.

2. I agree with strengthening genetics when/where possible.

3. I do not agree with the connection aspect you mentioned. If you take these animals out of the wild and put them into a tank most people do not think to invest or conserve the area where they came from. In contrast, it will actually hurt that population. (This is how you go from a strong population in your first point to a dwindling one like so many species out there already)

I personally believe wild caught is fine in about 25% of situations. For anyone wanting a pet I believe there's so many captive animals readily available why go take one from the wild?
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Old 06-27-19, 08:41 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

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Originally Posted by Herpin' Man View Post
There seems to be a popular opinion in the herp hobby lately, that collecting wild specimens is always wrong. It isn't. If the animal is of a sustainable species and population, and the individual collecting it is prepared to provide proper care, there is nothing wrong with legal and responsible collecting. They are no different from other wild resources, such as game and fish.
Many newcomers to the hobby seem to be unaware that captive breeding is a relatively new phenomena, and of course, all captive bred species originated with wild caught specimens.
One of the most obvious benefits of WC to the hobby is that it is necessary to bringing new species into the hobby. Of the thousands of species of reptile and amphibians known, only a tiny percentage of them are regularly captive bred.
Another benefit to the hobby is that wild collecting can bring in fresh genetics, to strengthen and/or diversify existing bloodlines. It is also beneficial to those working with "locality" animals.
A third benefit to collecting is that it helps make the connection, for the collector, between captive herps and nature- it puts them in context. Whether a seasoned hobbyist or a young person collecting their first toad to keep as a pet, the more connected we are to these animals in their natural environments, the more invested we will be in their conservation.
Figured i'd play a bit of devil's advocate today. Nothing is meant by my post other than to stimulate this conversation from a different perspective.

I would propose that your statements bring more/different questions rather than definitive answers.

- Do we NEED to bring new species into the hobby? Especially when 99% of keepers generally keep and reproduce those of which are extremely common and already overbred in captivity? A lot of species that aren't kept as common are often more complex and therefore die due to their needs either not being met, or having needs that are impossible for us to meet, either short or long term. This has no benefit for anyone or anything other than us.

-As far as helping to make a connection...I'm not totally sure on that when so many keepers are keeping their animals on paper towels in bare minimalistic setups and powerfeeding their animals to breed and make profit. It may create interest in something that may have been previously overlooked or ignored...but sometimes the "connection" just isn't made as often as we would hope for. I'd propose that an extremely small percentage of people who at first weren't interested in conservation of any type decided to pick up an interest in it after beginning to keep reptiles.

- If they are no different from other wild resources, and many resources-
whether that would be animals, plants, or other resources- are dwindling/becoming extinct/extirpated on a global level (perhaps not so much at a local level - at least not yet), aside from accredited breeding and reintroduction/ecological/zoological programs, just exactly what are the long term benefits of wild collecting? We do have the short term reward of self-serving our own interests and desires, but what exactly would the benefit to a wild population of a threatened species be if "Bob Smith" produced a bunch of hatchlings in his basement to sell to other keepers?

I love conversations like this. Great posts.
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Old 06-27-19, 02:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

This is not a simple “Yes” or “No” question. In general, we should try to restrict ourselves to CB animals. If the species is bred in large (enough) numbers it makes no sense to catch them in the wild if you can get a CB animal for a small amount of money.

If a CB reptile is necessarily healthier than a WC reptile is at least questionable in some cases. Of course you usually don’t have the internal and external parasites in a CB animal you routinely have to treat in WC animals, sometimes dehydration is also a major concern for fresh imports. However, if you look at the inbreeding over generations in most of the popular morphs like ball pythons, corn snakes, bearded dragons, leopard geckos etc. the gene pool is severely reduced and in some cases we already have health issues resulting from this.


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Originally Posted by Herpin' Man View Post
[...]
Many newcomers to the hobby seem to be unaware that captive breeding is a relatively new phenomena, and of course, all captive bred species originated with wild caught specimens.
[...]

I don’t think that this is such a new phenomena, I have some newsletters from the German Herpetological Society (DGHT) form the mid 1980th with literally hundreds of adds for reptiles, most of them CB.

There are some valid arguments for keeping WC animals. (Re-)Introducing new species into the hobby is one of them, to broaden the variety of available species. Another might be to introduce some new bloodlines into existing CB stock to improve the gene pole again and reduce the amount of genetic deficiencies. Establishing breeding projects for reptiles from known localities to help preserve them in human care (not necessarily to reintroduce them into the wild later, for this you would have to have high standards to make sure that animals brought back into their habitat would not carry new pathogens). If you think at the mish mash we have with Boa constrictor / imperator where probably 99% of the available snakes are mixes from all over their distribution and next to nobody have really pure BCC or Bi any longer.

Of course getting a WC animal is nothing a new keeper should try, there is no reason why somebody shouldn’t start with one of the established CB “beginner reptiles”. But if somebody with some experience starts to keep not so well known species and starts with WC animals we might get some insights into how to provide good husbandry for them and probably can even learn how to keep the “established” animals better. What we need are better ways to communicate these advances in husbandry and probably an open mind for out-of-the-box thinking.
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Old 06-28-19, 08:10 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

Aaron S-
Most game and fish is not stocked, but I get your point. I guess I was trying to say that common species of reptiles and amphibians are a natural resource, and removing a small number of them won't affect the population in the long run any more than regulated hunting and fishing would affect those animals. That's essentially the definition of "sustainable".
I most definitely believe that field herping, whether to collect or not, connects one with these animals, and increases awareness of, and interest in, the habitat. How could it not? I also believe that many people first become interested in herps as a result of an encounter with them in the wild. Perhaps not as much now as it was when I was young, but it does still happen.

Andy G-
Much of the non-herp general public would assert that we don't "need" to keep herps in captivity at all. That you personally may not see the "need" for bringing new species into the hobby doesn't invalidate my "need" to do so. Personally, I appreciate the diversity of captive bred species that has become available over the years. How dull the hobby would be if we had stopped at corn snakes and leopard geckos.
Yes, many species appear to have complex needs for successfully keeping them, but the same was once said of many of the species commonly kept today. Zoos used to have to force feed their snakes, due to the prevailing belief that they would not eat in captivity.
I agree that the connection to the natural existence of herps isn't made often enough. One could reasonably argue that is actually a negative affect of captive bred animals being so widely available. Before captive breeding, many of us had little choice but to collect our own animals, if we wanted to have them. It may not have directly benefited the animals (but how many future wildlife biologists did it create?), but it certainly benefited the budding hobbyist. My own interest in herps would be very, very different today if I had not had the opportunity to find and collect herps when I was younger- if that interest even existed at all.
As to your question of what are the benefits of wild collecting, yes, it does serve our own interests and desires. The original question pertained to the benefits of collecting to the hobby, not to the herps themselves.

Roman-
I don't think the value of CB over WC (all else being equal) is in question.
Perhaps I am dating myself, but the 1980's wasn't that long ago. In the history of herpetology- and to me- captive breeding IS a relatively new phenomena. When I was starting out, it was virtually non-existent. People were still trying to figure out how to get herps to eat and survive in captivity.
You bring up some good points regarding the "mish mash" seen with captive animals. I like the idea of keeping taxon pure, down to locality if possible. I am no fan of hybridization. For some species (some of the milk snakes and locality boas for example) pure forms are rare or non-existent in captivity. If one wants them, they almost certainly would have to come out of the wild.
Your statement about new keepers avoiding wild caught is right on the money, although there is a distinction between getting, for example, some frog eating colubrid wild caught in Africa, and a toad found in the back yard. I would love it if these imported oddities would end up in the hands of dedicated breeders, rather than a newcomer who would end up killing it. However, I don't know of an easy way to ensure that would always happen. I guess educating new herp keepers is really the key.
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Old 06-28-19, 03:42 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

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[...]
Roman-
I don't think the value of CB over WC (all else being equal) is in question.
Perhaps I am dating myself, but the 1980's wasn't that long ago. In the history of herpetology- and to me- captive breeding IS a relatively new phenomena. When I was starting out, it was virtually non-existent. People were still trying to figure out how to get herps to eat and survive in captivity.
You bring up some good points regarding the "mish mash" seen with captive animals. I like the idea of keeping taxon pure, down to locality if possible. I am no fan of hybridization. For some species (some of the milk snakes and locality boas for example) pure forms are rare or non-existent in captivity. If one wants them, they almost certainly would have to come out of the wild.
Your statement about new keepers avoiding wild caught is right on the money, although there is a distinction between getting, for example, some frog eating colubrid wild caught in Africa, and a toad found in the back yard. I would love it if these imported oddities would end up in the hands of dedicated breeders, rather than a newcomer who would end up killing it. However, I don't know of an easy way to ensure that would always happen. I guess educating new herp keepers is really the key.

I just wanted to point out that breeding reptiles is not something new, but you are right of course, the amount of CB animals today is much higher as it was 20 or 30 years ago, so I certainly don’t want to split hairs…

You are right, some animals you might catch yourself are easy to care for. It is probably just a different perspective, here in Germany (and in Europe in general) all reptiles and amphibians (and pretty much any other wildlife) are protected, so you can’t just catch a frog form your backyard to put it into a terrarium. Under European law the protected species have (at least) the same status as CITES Anex II, you can trade CB animals with a proof of origin, but you are not allowed to catch them. So if you mention WC for us this implies usually something “exotic” from outside Europe.

In my opinion we as some kind of community should try to educate new keepers and help them to make good choices. Don’t get a cheap Asian vine snake (Ahaetulla sp.) because most of them die even with experienced keepers, get some of the “boring” beginners snakes or lizards instead (and find out that they are not boring at all). We should provide new keepers with examples of good husbandry, not just a small plastic shoe box in a rack, but a appropriate sized enclosure with good light and other kind of enrichment. But this is another subject.

So in my opinion WC animals have their place in the hobby, but our goal should be to reproduce the WC species to get new generations of CB animals from them.
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Old 06-29-19, 03:05 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

Here in the U.S., more and more, states are protecting native herps from collecting. In my home state of Minnesota, they recently moved from very loose protection to very tight protections. Complete prohibition on collecting native species, unless you are a commercial turtle harvester. That's still OK. Out of fifty or so native species, only four are desirable in the pet trade, and two were already protected as being threatened. So now, a budding young naturalist can no longer legally keep a garter snake found in the yard, but her neighbor can kill all she wants out of fear and ignorance. Native herps are no longer accessible by the public or by the interested hobbyist; functionally, they belong almost exclusively to academics and government biologists- most of whom doubtless became interested in these animals due to keeping a few as pets when they were young. It's so ridiculous that the Minnesota Herpetological Society can no longer legally use native species in its public education programs. Little by little our hobby, which was once merely considered unusual, is being criminalized.
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Old 07-01-19, 10:43 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

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Here in the U.S., more and more, states are protecting native herps from collecting. In my home state of Minnesota, they recently moved from very loose protection to very tight protections. Complete prohibition on collecting native species, unless you are a commercial turtle harvester. That's still OK. Out of fifty or so native species, only four are desirable in the pet trade, and two were already protected as being threatened. So now, a budding young naturalist can no longer legally keep a garter snake found in the yard, but her neighbor can kill all she wants out of fear and ignorance. Native herps are no longer accessible by the public or by the interested hobbyist; functionally, they belong almost exclusively to academics and government biologists- most of whom doubtless became interested in these animals due to keeping a few as pets when they were young. It's so ridiculous that the Minnesota Herpetological Society can no longer legally use native species in its public education programs. Little by little our hobby, which was once merely considered unusual, is being criminalized.
I've read lots of great points throughout this thread. Both pros and cons.
But this reply really hit home with me. Your point about native species being "protected" by government and prohibited in the pet trade, yet can be legally killed is asinine.
You make some great points here.

I've yet to comment on this thread til now. But I'll toss my two cents in....

I don't see any point in keeping wild caught animals as pets, especially when the species has been bred in captivity for years. There's just no need in my opinion.

Of course, wild caught specimens that are being used for research and strengthening genetics is another story.
Species that are not yet common in the pet trade due to difficulties in captive breeding or just haven't survived well in captivity to this point is another story.

But to simply grab an animal from the wild for a personal pet, in my opinion, is not fair. Especially species that are readily available captive bred.

And of course, most of us developed our love for herps by catching snakes, frogs, toads, newts, lizards, etc... in our yards or neighborhoods. But developing an interest and taking an animal out of its natural habitat are two very different things.

Anyway, that's just my two cents...
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Old 07-02-19, 09:40 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

Quote:
Originally Posted by Herpin' Man View Post
There seems to be a popular opinion in the herp hobby lately, that collecting wild specimens is always wrong. It isn't. If the animal is of a sustainable species and population, and the individual collecting it is prepared to provide proper care, there is nothing wrong with legal and responsible collecting. They are no different from other wild resources, such as game and fish.
Many newcomers to the hobby seem to be unaware that captive breeding is a relatively new phenomena, and of course, all captive bred species originated with wild caught specimens.
One of the most obvious benefits of WC to the hobby is that it is necessary to bringing new species into the hobby. Of the thousands of species of reptile and amphibians known, only a tiny percentage of them are regularly captive bred.
Another benefit to the hobby is that wild collecting can bring in fresh genetics, to strengthen and/or diversify existing bloodlines. It is also beneficial to those working with "locality" animals.
A third benefit to collecting is that it helps make the connection, for the collector, between captive herps and nature- it puts them in context. Whether a seasoned hobbyist or a young person collecting their first toad to keep as a pet, the more connected we are to these animals in their natural environments, the more invested we will be in their conservation.

I agree with this. I think there's a disconnect with most younger people and any sort of hunting/collecting from the wild. Managed correctly, it's perfectly sustainable. I know people are going to jump on the "managed correctly" bit, but, in the US, our conservation/game and fish operations have been a massive success.
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Old 07-02-19, 09:52 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

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I agree with this. I think there's a disconnect with most younger people and any sort of hunting/collecting from the wild. Managed correctly, it's perfectly sustainable. I know people are going to jump on the "managed correctly" bit, but, in the US, our conservation/game and fish operations have been a massive success.
Yeah, it's actually sad in my opinion. Kids don't do much anymore unless it's in front of a TV, computer, tablet, phone, video game...

There must be 12-15 kids in my immediate neighborhood, I NEVER see any of them playing outside. I practically lived outside as a kid. My mother always had trouble getting me inside before the street lights came on.
The times, they are a changing...
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Old 07-02-19, 01:20 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

As a kid I collected and raised tadpoles and released them a few weeks after metamorphosis, kept a small painted turtle for a year and released it back into the pond where I found it and kept a sunfish I caught while fishing.

As an adult who is now aware of the risks, I would never keep and release wild-caught animals like I did when I was kid (or encourage kids with financial means to do the same), but those experiences were so crucial to building my strong, life-long love of the natural world and animals. Growing up in a poor household, it was the only way for me to experience having "pets" like that.

As someone who tries to minimize my impact on the environment, I'm torn about any type of collecting of wild animals and animal captivity. However, I still feel there are real benefits to keeping pets (I keep two snakes myself), and I wouldn't discourage children/families with little means from collecting non-threatened, legally-collectible wild herps. I think the line is when people with financial means choose to collect wild animals when captive-bred options are available.

Although it may be an unpopular opinion, I'm strongly against the wild collection of animals overseas due to the lack of regulation, threat to species' survival and poor handling of animals during importation.
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Old 07-03-19, 11:52 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

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Originally Posted by Herpin' Man View Post
Aaron S-
Most game and fish is not stocked, but I get your point. I guess I was trying to say that common species of reptiles and amphibians are a natural resource, and removing a small number of them won't affect the population in the long run any more than regulated hunting and fishing would affect those animals. That's essentially the definition of "sustainable".
I most definitely believe that field herping, whether to collect or not, connects one with these animals, and increases awareness of, and interest in, the habitat. How could it not? I also believe that many people first become interested in herps as a result of an encounter with them in the wild. Perhaps not as much now as it was when I was young, but it does still happen.

Andy G-
Much of the non-herp general public would assert that we don't "need" to keep herps in captivity at all. That you personally may not see the "need" for bringing new species into the hobby doesn't invalidate my "need" to do so. Personally, I appreciate the diversity of captive bred species that has become available over the years. How dull the hobby would be if we had stopped at corn snakes and leopard geckos.
Yes, many species appear to have complex needs for successfully keeping them, but the same was once said of many of the species commonly kept today. Zoos used to have to force feed their snakes, due to the prevailing belief that they would not eat in captivity.
I agree that the connection to the natural existence of herps isn't made often enough. One could reasonably argue that is actually a negative affect of captive bred animals being so widely available. Before captive breeding, many of us had little choice but to collect our own animals, if we wanted to have them. It may not have directly benefited the animals (but how many future wildlife biologists did it create?), but it certainly benefited the budding hobbyist. My own interest in herps would be very, very different today if I had not had the opportunity to find and collect herps when I was younger- if that interest even existed at all.
As to your question of what are the benefits of wild collecting, yes, it does serve our own interests and desires. The original question pertained to the benefits of collecting to the hobby, not to the herps themselves.

Roman-
I don't think the value of CB over WC (all else being equal) is in question.
Perhaps I am dating myself, but the 1980's wasn't that long ago. In the history of herpetology- and to me- captive breeding IS a relatively new phenomena. When I was starting out, it was virtually non-existent. People were still trying to figure out how to get herps to eat and survive in captivity.
You bring up some good points regarding the "mish mash" seen with captive animals. I like the idea of keeping taxon pure, down to locality if possible. I am no fan of hybridization. For some species (some of the milk snakes and locality boas for example) pure forms are rare or non-existent in captivity. If one wants them, they almost certainly would have to come out of the wild.
Your statement about new keepers avoiding wild caught is right on the money, although there is a distinction between getting, for example, some frog eating colubrid wild caught in Africa, and a toad found in the back yard. I would love it if these imported oddities would end up in the hands of dedicated breeders, rather than a newcomer who would end up killing it. However, I don't know of an easy way to ensure that would always happen. I guess educating new herp keepers is really the key.

I think this needs to be said first. Thank you for keeping the discussion civil even with people who have counter points to yours.

With that said, to your first point, I think field herping is a key thing to many kids growing up and learning to respect the animals. Collecting to me, is different though. One thing to take a picture or handle a garter then let it slither off into the grass than it is to take it home. What if it's a gravid female and then all these babies come out or she dies gravid? We've then taken out not one but many animals in the ecosystem.

I think we are all on the same page here though but from different perspectives.

I gather you grew up in a place where you could catch many animals and see them. I grew up, and still live in a large city. I did not have snakes in my backyard and it was a rarity to go anywhere I could to see them in the wild. In addition, we have always had protection laws against collecting native herps.

A differing of perspectives is what I see here and what fueled our personal passion.

To simply play devil's advocate, are populations still sustainable considering the habitat loss and ecosystem destruction we as people do? How many animals needlessly died in the hands of kids who didn't grow up to continue their passion but tossed it aside once dating became a thing. I'm sure we can go on forever with these and it's sad I don't have any numbers of such things.

What we can ALL agree on is helping youngsters learn about these animals and hopefully keep up conservation efforts in ways that they aren't lost to future generations.
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Old 07-04-19, 11:24 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Wild-caught vs. Captive-bred

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To simply play devil's advocate, are populations still sustainable considering the habitat loss and ecosystem destruction we as people do? How many animals needlessly died in the hands of kids who didn't grow up to continue their passion but tossed it aside once dating became a thing. I'm sure we can go on forever with these and it's sad I don't have any numbers of such things.
I think it's complicated, because if a given population of a common species is in no danger of loss due to habitat destruction, we would consider it sustainable. However these populations may interact with nearby populations, genetically speaking, so what if the nearby population is threatened by development?
Here in Minnesota, our largest populations of bull snakes and western hognose snakes occur in some of the fastest-growing areas of the state. I routinely find them in areas slated for housing and other development. Ethically, I would have no issues with removing these animals. But they can't legally be collected or even moved (moved where, anyway?)- figuratively speaking, from the path of the bulldozer. There is nearby State Forest land, which was once native prairie, teeming with these and other uncommon species. Rather than preserving it, the state turned it into a pine plantation. I guess it burns me a bit that habitat destruction, which is nearly always the biggest threat our beloved herps face, is acceptable, while any amount of private collection is criminalized.

Yes, animals do needlessly die in the hands of kids. Adults too. This applies to wild as well as captive bred herps. The only answer I can give is that morally, it is a price we pay (and the animals pay) to ultimately enjoy our hobby. It is something we all come to terms with in our own way, just as we all come to terms with, and rationalize, the idea of keeping animals captive to begin with. However the animals benefit in the long run as well, by playing a role in developing the people who will, ultimately grow to care for them, and hopefully play a part in protecting them.
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