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Find more information on our Reptiles and Amphibians page.


Are Water Moccasins found in Pennsylvania?

Water Moccasins or Cottonmouths are not native to PA. They are found primarily in the southern states. Their range only goes as far north as southern Virginia. There are only three venomous snakes native to PA: the Eastern Copperhead, Timber Rattlesnake and Eastern Massasauga. 

Do you need a permit to possess a Timber Rattlesnake or to keep one as a pet?

It is legal to possess a live Timber Rattlesnake in Pennsylvania under certain circumstances. The person in possession of the snake would have to get a Venomous Snake Permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission prior to obtaining the snake. The snake would then have to be legally collected from the wild in Pennsylvania during the open season and in compliance with size and possession limits. The possession limit for Timber Rattlesnakes is one. This is the only way to legally acquire a Timber Rattlesnake in Pennsylvania.

A Timber Rattlesnake obtained from the wild in Pennsylvania without a permit would be illegal to possess. Timber Rattlesnakes may not be imported into Pennsylvania from other states or countries. It is illegal to breed Timber Rattlesnakes (or most other native reptiles and amphibians) in captivity in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission does not recommend keeping venomous reptiles as pets.

Do you need a permit to purchase/sell/possess a venomous exotic snake?

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations only pertain to native species of PA. In other words, our regulations do not cover any species not found in PA. Therefore, you would not need a permit from our agency. However, you may want to contact your local municipal government to see if they have any ordinances in effect that regulate the possession of “dangerous animals” or exotic pets.

How do you tell the difference between a venomous snake and a harmless one?

All three venomous snakes native to PA are pit vipers. Two facial characteristics common to all pit vipers are vertically elliptical pupils (like a cat’s eyes in bright light) and facial pits (indentations on the “cheeks” which aid in heat detection and locating prey). Facial pits are not found on nonvenomous snakes native to the Commonwealth.

In addition, rattlesnakes have rattles or the remnants of rattles beginning at the base of the tail. The Eastern Copperhead has a single row of scales on the underside of the tail between the anal opening and the tip of the tail. Our nonvenomous snakes have two rows of scales under the tail.

Can you determine the age of a rattlesnake by counting the rattles?

No. A rattlesnake develops a new rattle on its tail every time the snake sheds its skin. A healthy snake can shed its skin multiple times per year, each time adding a rattle to its tail. There is no visual method used to determine the age of a rattlesnake.

Do Timber Rattlesnakes have venom when they are first born?

Yes. A neonate (newborn) Timber Rattlesnake possesses enough venom to subdue its prey and obtain its first meal.

How do you keep snakes away from your home and yard?

There is no known effective snake repellent that can be used safely without danger to humans and/or pets. But a few simple housecleaning measures usually keep snakes away from buildings and reduce the likelihood of a snake entering your home. These include:

    • Place piles of firewood, stone and rubbish far away from the building foundation.
    • Maintain a zone of mowed lawn around and and up to the foundation.
    • Remove dense ground cover plantings from the foundation area.
    • Eliminate potential food sources such as mice, rats, flying squirrels and voles from the building.

When removing snakes, try using non-lethal methods. If you are uncomfortable with removing a snake yourself, contact a PFBC law enforcement region office or a local animal removal specialist.


What are the seasons, possession limits and size restrictions to hunt Timber Rattlesnakes and Eastern Copperheads?

The season to hunt both the Timber Rattlesnake and the Eastern Copperhead is from the second Saturday in June to July 31. Both species have an an annual limit of one. The Timber Rattlesnake must be at least 42 inches in length, measured lengthwise along the dorsal surface from the snout to the tail, excluding the rattle, and must possess 21 or more subcaudal scales. There is no size restriction on Eastern Copperheads. Check the Summary Book for further regulations.

When are the report forms due for hunting Timber Rattlesnakes and Eastern Copperheads?

Within 10 business days following the capture or kill of a Timber Rattlesnake and/or a Eastern Copperhead. If no snake is captured or killed, then 10 days of the conclusion of the season (August 10 of the permit year).

When do I have to fill out a possession tag?

Once you take, catch, kill or possess a Timber Rattlesnake, you must immediately complete the possession tag that is attached to your permit and detach the tag from the permit in the field. The possession tag must be kept in a safe location so that it can be presented along with the Timber Rattlesnake to which it pertains upon the request of an officer authorized to enforce the code. A possession tag is not required for Eastern Copperheads.


Is it legal to release a pet turtle in the wild?

It is illegal to place into the wild any species that are not native to Pennsylvania. It is also illegal to release any native species of turtles taken from Pennsylvania unless:

    • The turtle is released at the point of capture.
    • The turtle is released within 30 days of capture.
    • The turtle is released between May 1 and September 31.
    • The turtle is in good health.
    • The turtle was not in contact with other reptiles or amphibians while in captivity.

What turtles can I collect from the wild? 

You are allowed to possess one of each native species not listed as threatened/endangered or as a species of concern. Reference the Summary Book​ for rules and regulations.

What should you do if you find a turtle crossing the road?

If you see a turtle crossing a road and want to help it, check carefully to make sure it is safe for you to enter the roadway, and then move the turtle across the road in the direction it was traveling. Putting a turtle on the side of the road it was coming from will only cause it to re-enter the roadway. They have strong homing instincts and they will no doubt continue their efforts to cross the road. Turtles seen on roads should not be picked up to take to a nature center or pet shop.

What are turtle hooks?

Turtle hooks are the only hooks a person is allowed to use to take, catch or kill a turtle. These turtle hooks must be at least 3.5 inches in total length with at least a 1-inch space between the point and shank.

Who needs a snapping turtle permit?

Anyone wishing to sell, barter or trade snapping turtles or their parts needs to have a snapping turtle permit. This permit must be possessed at all times while hunting for turtles. You can get a snapping turtle permit online.

You do not need a snapping turtle permit if you are collecting a snapping turtle for your personal use. As long as you have a valid PA fishing license, an individual can collect 15 daily and have a total of 30 in their possession.


Is it legal to buy/sell/own an alligator, cayman or crocodile in PA?

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s regulations do not regulate possession of non-native species of reptiles and amphibians. So long as these animals are not released into the wild, there are no state regulations regarding their ownership. Likewise, there is no state permit required to possess these animals. However, there may be local municipal ordinances, which regulate the ownership of “dangerous animals” and you should check with your local government before purchasing such an animal.

Where do get a permit to propagate bullfrogs?

The Department of Agriculture is responsible for issuing permits for fish propagation, which includes bullfrogs and green frogs.

Do you need a permit to sell reptiles and amphibians?

Our regulations require that, with the exception of common snapping turtles, no reptile or amphibian may be taken from the wild in PA for sale, trade or barter. To sell a snapping turtle, you would need to have a commercial snapping turtle permit. Also, it is unlawful to possess, import or export species listed as endangered or threatened by the Fish and Boat Commission.

Can you sell the venom of Timber Rattlesnakes or Eastern Copperheads?

It is unlawful to milk our native snakes and sell the venom.