New rules keep risky critters out of Oregon

Marbled tree frogs and Asian glass lizards would be welcomed in Oregon but two subspecies of river otters won't be allowed across the state line under proposed changes to rules meant to protect native wildlife and their habitats.

The frogs, lizards and four other reptiles were considered low risks to Oregon wildlife and good candidates to start being sold as pets here, according to a review by the state's Wildlife Integrity Panel.

"They, essentially, have a low risk of competing and surviving in Oregon if they escape," said Rick Boatner, coordinator of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Wildlife Integrity program.

But three others — the Spanish ribbed newt, Pixie frog and Bumblebee toad — were deemed too high a risk for sale as pets in Oregon, according to the panel.

Tim Creswell, who owns House of Reptiles in Tigard, petitioned the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to make nine reptiles legal for sale and possession in Oregon. That set off a three-year journey through the agency that culminates Friday in Salem, when the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission votes on whether to accept the panel's recommendation and deem the marbled tree frogs and Asian glass lizards legal here.

Other reptiles recommended for approval are hardly household names: the Tonkin bug-eyed frog and three lizards — the splendid japaure, the Somali strange and Taylor's strange agama.

"They're not considered a risk so there's no reason why they shouldn't be sold as pets," said Creswell, who says his shop and museum are the largest of their kind in the Pacific Northwest."

Creswell said these and other reptiles are sold legally in other states and regularly are on a list of available animals from his suppliers.

The reptiles were not previously banned, but were not included on Oregon's "noncontrolled species" rolls.

"It just hasn't come up before," he said.

However, the eastern subspecies of the North American river otter was labeled a high risk at surviving in Oregon should it end up released in Oregon, where it likely would prey on native wildlife, interbreed with Oregon otters and out-compete them for food and habitat, according to the panel.

The Asian small-clawed otter was also considered a high risk to survive in Oregon, with the same risk factors as the North American river otter subspecies except that it was not considered a threat to interbreed or hybridize with native otters, the panel concluded.

If adopted, that recommendation would put those two non-native otters on the state's "prohibited species" list.

The otters were petitioned for classification as noncontrolled species by a Junction City man who likes to keep and study otters, Boatner said.

Creswell also had asked the panel to reclassify the Pixie frog — also known as Tshudi's African bulldog — but it was deemed to risky by the panel, which recommended to keep it illegal in Oregon, according to the ODFW.

The bullfrog "could probably live here in Oregon and they pretty much eat everything they can grab," Boatner said.

The panel consists of state and federal biologists as well as a retired Oregon Zoo employee and a member of the public who exhibits reptiles in the Pacific Northwest.

When an animal is petitioned to be allowed in Oregon, the panel judges whether it has an invasive history, whether it could survive in Oregon, whether it would prey on or pass diseases to native wildlife and whether it could interbreed with natives.

The panel's recommendations were reviewed and passed by ODFW biologists to the commission for Friday's vote.

If adopted, the changes would go into effect as early as next week, Boatner said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at

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