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Trouble with the law - I want to know what YOU think.

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Posted by JonF on June 28, 2001 at 18:36:45:

Hello I have this huge "investigation" being done on ME because of a small incident I am about to tell you about. I would like your honest opinion, being that you are the people of NJ that our government is supported by.

I love all herps, but specifically snakes. A friend and I decided to go out and see what we can find in NJ. At first we went to a few nature centers to check out the snakes they have. Then we went looking around our local
forest/streams. We found a bunch of garter snakes, ribbon snakes and a few northern water snakes. We took a water snake and 2 nice looking garter snakes home. We were TOTALLY oblivious to the fact that this was illegal. I
still cannot understand how taking a garter snake and a water snake is gonna hurt the environment? Its not like EVERYONE and their grandmother is collecting them, as a matter of fact most people HATE snakes. Its not like we
took 70 and sold them in the pet trade, we took 2 of one species and one of the other so we could enjoy keepin them and learn how they live. Over time, we collected about 7 different species. Now keep in mind we only took 1
of each species as to not diminish the population. Now people ask me, why dont you just buy captive bred. My answer is because they are totally different from wild caught. I dont want them for PETS, I keep them because they
fascinate me, and I love to learn more about them. The captive bred species I have ketp are boring in my opinion. They just sit there, do nothing. They are on a set diet and eat picky. They are just visibly different, the wild
attributes have been stripped out of them, and they are no different from any other pet. Anyway...

As time went on we wanted to explore more, find new interesting species. We went up to delaware water gap with 2 snake hooks and a pillow case incase we found something neat. Here is where all the trouble began. A ranger stopped
us and inquired what the hooks were for. Now at about this time in our venture, we had decided no more snakes because I had seven and they are alot of work to feed and keep their cages clean. Of course, if we found something
that really got our attention we would make an acception and bring it home. So mainly we were there to take pictures with my digital camera. We know the endangered species and would never take any of them (pine snake, timber rattler,
corn snake, we found this info at So this ranger slaps us with a fine for attempting to take wildlife for 100 dollars, when he did not find anything on us anyway because we didnt really
go with the intention to take. So that was that...

About three weeks ago we ventured down to the pine barrens, greenwood wildlife management area, to see what we could find. Sure we got fined, but that didnt stop our love to find snakes. This is where we were wrong though.
Even though we did get fined weeks ago, we had collected a northern fence lizard. They are not endangered and very abundent, I decided it REALLY isnt hurting anything! To make a long story short a ranger again harrased us
and found the lizard and slapped us both with a 321 dollar fine. Honestly we deserved it for making the same mistake twice. We talked about it and decided to NEVER take anything out of NJ again because this state is just

Here is the good part. The ranger who gave us the ticket had told us we have two choices. Go to court and fight the ticket or pay it and be done with it. We decided to pay it. Now he asked me if I had any other snakes at home
and I told him. He made me fill out a form telling him of all the snakes I had in my possesion "so the conservation officers comming to your house will bring adequate containers", is what he told me. So they come and take my
snakes away. At my house I asked them if they were done fining me and the conservation officers said yes that was it, just the 321 dollar fine. So I send my fine in and they send it back rejecting it saying now they want me to
go to court for all the other snakes the conservation officers took from me. They want to smack me with $250 fine PER snake, when 4 of the snakes I found were in my own yard! How can they do that!! The officer that gave me the fine
originally, KNEW what snakes I had when I signed the paper. How can he just change his mind all of a sudden and reject my payment when it was already set in stone? I was lied to. They have NO proof of where I go the other snakes,
they fined me for what they had proof of (the fence lizard) and thats it, it should be done with. 321 dollars is enough to teach me a lesson and that NJ totally sucks if you are interested in herps.

I feel like a damn criminal. I love snakes, and I learned that I should not take them from the wild and I wont, but that is ALL I did. I feel like a drug runner, or a murderer the way they are treating this case. I can understand
if I collected tons on top of tons of snakes and sold them for the pet trade but that is NOT the case. I am just a person obsessed with snakes, who wants to learn more about them. The other thing is, they never tried to steer us
in the proper direction. The rangers/officers we dealt with just lowered our self esteem and made us feel like criminals. No one ever said there was a herpetological society in NJ, they never tried to help us do what we love
legally. We asked one ranger how to get a permit to do it legally and he LAUGHED in our faces and just stated "oh you wont get one". They dont care, they just want their money.

This makes me really hate NJ and its stupid laws. Im sorry but I am infuriated right now. please tell me what you think, do we deserve 1700 dollars worth of fines? We didnt hurt others, we didnt hurt ourselves, we did not even
hurt the evnironment in anyway! I feel like a criminal when all I did was go out into nature with a desire to learn!

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