The air is damp, the leaves are crunchy, and… Oh, look! A salamander!
As the seasons change and the herps are on the move, fans of a hobby known as “herping” start to emerge. Derived from the Greek root word that translates to creeping, “herp” is a term used by amphibian and reptile enthusiasts to describe their favorite scaly or slimy creatures. Herping, as they call it, is the hobby of searching for creatures out in the wild. Think of it like birdwatching, except a lot greener.
To learn more, we asked herping hobbyist Ariel Goodnight what all the hoopla is about herping.
How would you describe herping?
Herping is a cool way to say you’re searching for different types of amphibians or reptiles. The term came from hobbyists and Herpetologists that wanted to give this activity a name. Herping is a great hobby to get into and you could go your whole life and still not make a dent into some of these amazing species. Along the way though, you will see some of the most gorgeous colorations, patterns, sounds, and looks of all sorts of animals.
How did you get into herping?
I have been herping from a young age. Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize what I was doing had a name. I enjoyed bugs and frogs I’d find in the grass of my front yard. I enjoyed the outdoors, so coming across different animals in nature was exciting. It didn’t take too long to realize that I was more interested in reptiles than anything else. After that, I began taking small trips to the river or other areas specifically to go herping and see what I could come across.
Is herping specific to any one place?
Not at all! You can go herping with little to no gear in your back yard, lakes, ponds, rivers, forested areas, desert areas, grassy areas, etc. The awesome thing about the wide variety of amphibians and reptiles is that you can come across them in almost any environment type. One of the exciting parts about herping is traveling to different areas to see what species you come across.
What’s the most interesting creature you’ve found?
I think the rarest creature I’ve come across is an albino copperhead. They are very rare, as the albino genetic trait is recessive, so both the mother and father had to carry the gene to create the albino copperhead. It does happen in nature, but is uncommon, which makes it even more exciting. Though venomous and not to be messed with, they still have a positive connection to humankind. Contortrostatin is developed from copperhead venom and is used to treat breast cancer.
What warnings or recommendations do you have for people interested in herping?
Remember that many types of amphibians and reptiles are dealing with threats like loss of habitat and disease. You are a spectator and these animals mean you no harm as long as they do not feel threatened. Never get close to anything you can’t 100% identify. And always leave your discoveries exactly the way you found them as to not disturb their natural space. Make sure you check local and state laws as some animals are protected.
A Final Tip
Only take photos! While herps are beautiful, there is no reason to take them home with you. Both amphibians and reptiles are notoriously difficult to take care of and often don’t do well in confinement without experienced caretakers. Animals that have been removed from their natural habitat often can’t be released once they have been in captivity. If you’re still interested in a scaly friend, make sure to thoroughly research the animal and find a specimen from a responsible breeder.
From toads to snakes to turtles and beyond, there is an amazing variety of creatures that can be discovered. If you’re hunting for a herp, remember to be safe and respect any wildlife you find!
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