Can I keep a pet rattlesnake in California? How to identify one rockfish from another

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
An albino western diamondback rattlesnake was found recently at a Hill Country ranch in Texas. Albinos born in the wild are rare and are at a great disadvantage as they are easily spotted by predators.

Q: I’m an out-of-state licensed reptile breeder and I have a potential customer in California who wants to legally acquire captive bred albino Western Diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). I read that they might be a restricted species. Would the customer need a permit to purchase the snakes?

A: No, a permit would not be necessary in this case. However, we appreciate you checking because the regulations are complicated.

First, Crotalus atrox, while native to California, isn’t a restricted species. Currently, there are no native amphibians or reptiles that are a restricted species according to the California Code of Regulations. Note that the term "native" refers to all individuals from species and subspecies indigenous to California, regardless of whether they are captive bred or from outside the state.

Second, the code states that importation of native California amphibians and reptiles is prohibited without permission from CDFW. That permission is afforded through various permits and licenses depending on the purpose of the importation, but the only one that currently applies to the pet trade is a Native Reptile Propagation Permit. That section is limited to the three species of snakes that may be commercially bred: Lichanura orcutti, Lampropeltis californiae and Pituophis catenifer. Additionally, captively bred albino native reptiles are exempt from the requirement to possess a permit to purchase, breed, and sell, and they can be imported and exported without a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Third, note that albinos are defined as individual native reptiles lacking normal body pigment, and having red or pink eyes. Therefore, if your albinos don't meet both specifications they would not be exempted from the importation prohibition.

In summary, as long as your albino rattlesnakes meet the physical description in the regulations, they are exempt from the prohibition on importation, and the requirement of the recipient to purchase a propagation permit. However, note that some local jurisdictions have ordinances against possession of venomous animals, so the customer should check to see if they live in one of those areas.

Answer provided by CDFW Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Coordinator Laura Patterson.

Q: How do I know if I’ve caught a copper, quillback or vermilion rockfish?

A: This is an important question because new regulations to help protect depleted stocks of copper and quillback rockfishes go into effect this year. In addition to the new season and depth regulations, there is still a one-fish sub-bag limit for both copper rockfish and quillback rockfish, and a four-fish sub-bag limit for vermilion rockfish.

While it can be challenging to identify rockfish, anglers are responsible for properly identifying the species they catch. CDFW has developed numerous fish identification resources for anglers including flyers to help distinguish copper, quillback and vermilion rockfishes from similar looking species at

The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission’s RecFIN website has additional fish identification materials. Visit CDFW’s Groundfish web page at for more information.

Q: Does the CDFW offer any tax-deductible donation options that help conserve wildlife?

A: Yes, thank you for wanting to help native and endangered plants, animals and fish. California taxpayers have the option to help one or all three of California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) tax check-off funds when filing their state income tax return:

  1. The Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Voluntary Tax Contribution Program (Line 403 on Tax Form 540) supports conservation actions that help protect hundreds of rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals.
  2. The California Sea Otter Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund (Line 410 on Tax Form 540) supports CDFW scientists investigating causes of sea otter mortality and reasons why the species is not thriving in California. A portion of the funding goes to State Coastal Conservancy projects which help protect California’s sea otter population.
  3. The Native California Wildlife Rehabilitation Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund (Line 439 on Tax Form 540) helps sick, injured and orphaned wildlife by supporting permitted wildlife rehabilitation facilities through a new CDFW grants program.

Everything you need to know to complete your donation can be found on the CDFW’s Voluntary Tax Contribution Funds web page at We truly appreciate your positive impact on key issues affecting California’s native species.

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