Skip to Main Content

Overview: Collecting, Exhibiting, and Releasing Wildlife

An important element of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ (DWR) mission is “to manage Virginia’s wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” One way the Department does this is by enforcing the laws, regulations, and Agency guidelines governing the collection, holding, exhibiting, and release of wildlife by issuing permits and guidelines for these activities.

Possession, importation, sale, etc. of wild animals

It is unlawful to take, possess, import, cause to be imported, export, cause to be exported, buy, sell, offer for sale, or liberate within the Commonwealth any wild animals unless otherwise specifically permitted by law or regulation. It is unlawful to destroy or molest the nest, eggs, dens, or young of any wild bird or wild animal, except nuisance species*, at any time without a permit. It is unlawful to collect animal parts, such as feathers, claws, and bones without a permit (4 VAC 15-30-10 and §§ 29.1-521 and 29.1-553).

  • Nuisance species: house mouse, Norway rat, black rat, coyote, feral hog, nutria, woodchuck, European starling, English (house) sparrow, and pigeon (rock dove) (4 VAC 15-20-160).

Permit is required for the collection of wildlife for scientific and/or educational purposes. See: Collection of Wildlife for Scientific and/or Educational Purposes

Taking of Aquatic invertebrates (clams, snails), amphibians (frogs), reptiles (snakes), and nongame fish (minnows) for Private Use**

It is lawful to collect and possess live for private use** only, and not for sale, no more than 1 individual of any non-listed species of amphibian and reptile, and no more than 20 individuals of any non-listed species of aquatic invertebrate and nongame fish (4 VAC 15-360-10). NO Threatened and Endangered Species may be held for personal use.

  • ** private use means for use in the home, not for scientific, research, survey or educational purposes (which requires a permit).

Taking of Terrestrial invertebrates (earthworms) for Private Use**

Non-listed terrestrial invertebrates may be taken in unlimited numbers for private use** only. (4 VAC 15-20-180). NO Threatened and Endangered Species may be held for personal use.

  • ** private use means for use in the home, not for scientific, research, survey or educational purposes (which requires a permit).

Terrestrial insects & bugs (butterflies, spiders)

At this time no DWR permit is required for the following:

  • Phylum Arthropoda EXCEPT for the Superfamilies Astacoidea & Parastacoidea (Crayfish) – Arthropoda includes: Insects, arachnids, millipedes, centipedes and other crustaceans (EXCEPT Crayfish) such as: isopods, amphipods etc.
  • Phylum Annelida: earthworms and other related worms
  • Phylum Platyhelminthes: planarians, flatworms etc.

NO Threatened and Endangered Species may be collected.

Releasing Native Reptiles and Amphibians

Wild-caught native reptiles and amphibians captured in Virginia may be released within 30 days under the following conditions:

  • If more than one was collected from different locations, they were housed separately to prevent the potential spread of disease;
  • They do not show any signs of illness, and;
  • They MUST be released at the exact point of capture
  • No other wildlife may be released within the Commonwealth of Virginia

This rule also applies to any animals which are being exhibited even temporarily.

Naturalized species of reptiles and amphibians can not be released.

Threatened and endangered species

  • DWR adopts the federal list as well as a state list of endangered and threatened species.
  • Taking, exportation, transportation, or possession of endangered or threatened species may be permitted for zoological, educational, or scientific purposes and for propagation of such fish or wildlife in captivity for preservation purposes (§29.1-564 and 29.1-567 and 29.1-568 of the Code of Virginia).