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Bill would protect South Carolina's native reptiles, amphibians

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 1/22/20

From the coast to the mountains and every lake, river and swamp in between, native wildlife species occupy South Carolina's waterways.

However, less alligators, turtles, lizards and snakes have been seen roaming the state every year because …

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Bill would protect South Carolina's native reptiles, amphibians

Posted

From the coast to the mountains and every lake, river and swamp in between, native wildlife species occupy South Carolina's waterways.

However, less turtles, lizards and snakes have been seen roaming the state every year because traders have been removing the species and selling them to other states and countries.

South Carolina currently holds no regulations in protecting its native reptiles and amphibian species, but the state Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Subcommittee wants to change that with a bill to protect the state's native wildlife.

"God put those creatures there for a reason," committee member state Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, said. "We shouldn't watch them get taken away. It takes away our national heritage."

McElveen said he has been fond of the outdoors and South Carolina's natural environment since he was young, especially the box turtles, a type of tortoise.

Over time, McElveen noticed the decline in the state's reptile and amphibian population. He said one of the reasons behind this is that South Carolina has become an oasis for traders, as the state held no regulations to protect its wildlife.

South Carolina is the only Southeastern state lacking regulations to protect its wildlife, according to McElveen, something he said is unacceptable.

The bill would add regulations stating it is unlawful for a person to sell, purchase, trade, exchange, barter, export, ship, transfer the possession of, re-home, remove or attempt to remove any native reptile or amphibian species from South Carolina and provide that the Department of Natural Resources may establish limits for reptile and amphibian species by regulation.

"We've got an obligation to protect and value them for our children and grandchildren," said state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, who is also on the committee.

Many individuals from the Department of Natural Resources and various rescue groups have testified for the bill to get passed.

The subcommittee worked with neighboring states like Georgia in creating the bill before filing it in December 2019.

In mid-January, the bill was voted positively out of the subcommittee and will move on for the full committee to consider. If it's passed, it'll then move to the full Senate floor for discussion and potential votes.

There is also a similar bill that is in committee in the House of Representatives.

"We need to preserve what we have in South Carolina," Sheheen said.

To view the bill, visit https://bit.ly/36eiW48.