Department of Natural Resources
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Fisheries Report 07, 2015
Commercial Reptile and Amphibian Regulation in Michigan and Recommendations for the Future
Thomas M. Goniea
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division,
P.O. Box 30446, Lansing, Michigan 48909
Abstract.-Reptiles and amphibians were almost entirely unregulated in Michigan when the Department of Natural Resources received management authority from the legislature in 1988. Between 1989 and 1998, as recommended by experts in the field of herpetology, a series of progressively restrictive Fish Orders were enacted until the current regulation allowing commercial harvest of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) and green frogs (Rana clamitans) was finalized. In 2004, the Natural Resource Commission was asked to liberalize the commercial harvest of snapping turtles and in turn requested Fisheries Division review the state's current regulations and recommend changes. Snapping turtle biology, commercial harvest statistics, and Michigan's amphibian and reptile regulatory development were researched, compiled, and reviewed to support recommendations for future commercial harvests of snapping turtles and green frogs. From annual reporting, it was clear the commercial harvest is comprised exclusively of snapping turtles. Quickly it became apparent that a conservative approach was warranted regarding commercial take of snapping turtles, due to the species' limited ability to recover from increased mortality. Research showed stable populations depend on high adult annual survival (>93%) and cannot withstand adult annual mortalities greater than 10%. Noncommercial threats including abnormally high juvenile predation, habitat degradation, and recreational harvest, as well as incidental mortality due to increased human activity (cars, development, etc.) may already be inflicting an unacceptable level of mortality on localized snapping turtle populations around the state. Therefore, based on such a high adult survival requirement, it is the Fisheries Division's judgment that snapping turtles are not an appropriate candidate for commercial harvest and continuing their exploitation is not a sound wildlife management strategy. This report recommends amending the current Fisheries Order 224 to prohibit the commercial harvest of all reptiles and amphibians in Michigan. Such a change brings our current commercial regulations in line with several other Great Lake states and the province of Ontario, Canada which completely prohibit the commercial harvest of their native reptiles and amphibians.