Act 177 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Act 177 protects native turtles, establishes possession limits, and allows those that exceed possession limits to register their collection for a temporary exemption. It also allows SCDNR to manage native reptiles and amphibians through regulation, as well as making it illegal to release or let escape nonnative wildlife and provides increased penalties for violations. This bill also gives SCDNR the authority to regulate potentially damaging or invasive species.
Before this bill, there was no restriction or penalty for the release or escape of most nonnative wildlife in South Carolina. This bill makes that illegal and establishes a penalty for violations.
This is a misdemeanor offense and upon conviction is subject to a fine of up to $2,500 and/or imprisonment of up to a year.
Over the past 10+ years, SCDNR has noticed an increase in the reptile and amphibian trade, and recent high-profile law enforcement investigations starting in South Carolina, have brought needed attention to the exploitation of the state’s native reptiles and amphibians.
Some of our species, like Eastern Box Turtles, Spotted Turtles, and Diamondback Terrapins, are in high demand for the pet trade, particularly in Asia, where they fetch prices often in excess of $1,000 per animal. As our neighboring southeastern states have improved protections for reptiles and amphibians, South Carolina’s lack of regulation has brought more collectors to our state, removing more animals from the wild for sale to the highest bidder, and lack of regulation allow protected wildlife from other states to move into South Carolina to be laundered and freely traded.
South Carolina has come to play an unenviable role in international organized wildlife crime, where profits are high, penalties low, and the chances of getting caught are slim.
Representatives Bill Hixon and David Hiott, as well as Senators Vincent Sheheen and Chip Campsen, took an interest in protecting these resources and drafted legislation to address these issues. This received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
The goal is to protect native reptiles and amphibians in the wild. The new regulations provide all native reptiles and amphibians a base level of protection and allows compatible trade for important captive bred species that is not detrimental to wild populations, to continue.
Previously there was little protection or regulation of sale and transfer of native reptiles and amphibians, which led to many wild South Carolina species being targeted for collection, potentially contributing to population declines. Before, all native species could be bought, sold, and possessed in unlimited quantity, except species listed as endangered or threatened in South Carolina.
With the passage of the new law and associated regulations, most native species are protected from wild collection and sale. However, important species in the pet trade, like corn snakes reproduced in captivity, can continue to be traded. Regulations identify species that may be bought and sold without harm to wild populations. Species that are not state listed, or otherwise regulated may continue to be possessed.
The following personal possession limits, subject to an aggregate limit of ten, are established:
- Florida cooter (Pseudemys floridana): 5;
- River cooter (Pseudemys concinna): 5;
- Chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia): 5;
- Eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta): 5;
- Spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera): 5;
- Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox): 5;
- Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum): 5;
- Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii): 5;
- Common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus): 5;
- Yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta): 5;
- Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina): 5;
- Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina): 2; and
- Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin): 2.
A total limit of 10 turtles. The law allows those who exceed these limits to register their animals for a temporary exemption. Prior to the bill, there were no limits on possession of native reptiles and amphibians except species listed as threatened or endangered. Possession of threatened and endangered species still require a permit.
*Species listed as Endangered or Threatened in South Carolina may not be possessed without a permit. This includes, gopher tortoise, bog turtle, and spotted turtle.
Those that possess more than 10 native turtles total, or more than five:
- Florida cooter (Pseudemys floridana)
- River cooter (Pseudemys concinna)
- Chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia)
- Eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)
- Spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera)
- Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox)
- Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)
- Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii)
- Common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)
Or more than two eastern box turtle (Terrapene Carolina)
The bill allows zoos, aquaria, educational displays, research institutions, wildlife rehabilitators the ability to continue their work though some permitting may be required.
Registration only applies to those in South Carolina.
Registration will occur one time, though permits will need to be renewed annually.
Exemption is in effect as long as the individual continues to possess the originally registered animals that are in excess of the statutory limits. They cannot add or acquire additional native turtles by any means until their possession is below the statutory limit.