Reptile and Amphibian Study

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Reptile and Amphibian Study merit badge
Status: Electives
Created: 1993
Replaced: Reptile Study
BSA Advancement ID: 096
Requirements revision: 2019
Latest pamphlet revision: 2016


Scouts always have been interested in snakes, turtles, lizards, and alligators, as well as frogs and salamanders. Developing knowledge about these captivating creatures leads to an appreciation for all native wildlife; understanding the life cycle of a reptile or amphibian and keeping one as a pet can be a good introduction to natural history; and knowing about venomous species can help Scouts to be prepared to help in case of an emergency.

Reptile and Amphibian Study merit badge requirements

  1. Describe the identifying characteristics of six species of reptiles and four species of amphibians found in the United States. For any four of these, make sketches from your own observations or take photographs. Show markings, color patterns, or other characteristics that are important in the identification of each of the four species. Discuss the habits and habitats of all 10 species.
  2. Discuss with your merit badge counselor the approximate number of species and general geographic distribution of reptiles and amphibians in the United States. Prepare a list of the most common species found in your local area or state.
  3. Describe the main differences between
    (a) Amphibians and reptiles
    (b) Alligators and crocodiles
    (c) Toads and frogs
    (d) Salamanders and lizards
    (e) Snakes and lizards
  4. Explain how reptiles and amphibians are an important component of the natural environment. List four species that are officially protected by the federal government or by the state you live in, and tell why each is protected. List three species of reptiles and three species of amphibians found in your local area that are not protected. Discuss the food habits of all 10 species.
  5. Describe how reptiles and amphibians reproduce.
  6. From observation, describe how snakes move forward. Describe the functions of the muscles, ribs, and belly plates.
  7. Describe in detail six venomous snakes and the one venomous lizard found in the United States. Describe their habits and geographic range. Tell what you should do in case of a bite by a venomous species.
  8. Do ONE of the following:
    (a) Maintain one or more reptiles or amphibians for at least a month. Record food accepted, eating methods, changes in coloration, shedding of skins, and general habits; or keep the eggs of a reptile from the time of laying until hatching; or keep the eggs of an amphibian from the time of laying until their transformation into tadpoles (frogs) or larvae (salamanders). Whichever you chose, keep records of and report to your counselor how you cared for your animal/eggs/larvae to include lighting, habitat, temperature and humidity maintenance, and any veterinary care requirements.
    (b) Choose a reptile or amphibian that you can observe at a local zoo, aquarium, nature center, or other such exhibit (such as your classroom or school). Study the specimen weekly for a period of three months. At each visit, sketch the specimen in its captive habitat and note any changes in its coloration, shedding of skins, and general habits and behavior. Discuss with your counselor how the animal you observed was cared for to include its housing and habitat, how the lighting, temperature, and humidity were maintained, and any veterinary care requirements.
    Find out, either from information you locate on your own or by talking to the caretaker, what this species eats and what are its native habitat and home range, preferred climate, average life expectancy, and natural predators. Also identify any human-caused threats to its population and any laws that protect the species and its habitat. After the observation period, share what you have learned with your counselor.
  9. Do TWO of the following:
    (a) Identify at night three kinds of toads or frogs by their voices. Imitate the song of each for your counselor. Stalk each with a flashlight and discover how each sings and from where.
    (b) Identify by sight eight species of reptiles or amphibians.
    (c) Using visual aids, give a brief talk to a small group on three different reptiles and amphibians.
  10. Tell five superstitions or false beliefs about reptiles and amphibians and give a correct explanation for each. Give seven examples of unusual behavior or other true facts about reptiles and amphibians.


NOTE: Scouts must not use venomous reptiles in fulfilling requirement 8a. Species listed by federal or state law as endangered, protected, or threatened must not be used as live specimens in completing requirement 8a. When you decide keeping your specimen is no longer possible or desired, be sure to find another appropriate home for it or return it to the wild at the location of capture. Check with your merit badge counselor for those instances where the return of these specimens would not be appropriate.
Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, some plants and animals are, or may be, protected by federal law. The same ones and/or others may be protected by state law. Be sure that you do not collect protected species.
Your state may require that you purchase and carry a license to collect certain species. Check with the wildlife and fish and game officials in your state regarding species regulations before you begin to collect.

The official source for the information shown in this article or section is:
Scouts BSA Requirements, 2019 Edition (BSA Supply SKU #648914)

View the change list (history) of these requirements. The text of these requirements may be locked. In that case, they can only be edited
by an administrator.
Please note any errors found in the above requirements on this article's Talk Page.


Worksheet A FREE workbook for Reptile and Amphibian Study is available here! (PDF or Word) with the maps, charts, links, diagrams, and checklists you need! Or click here to print just the Reptile and Amphibian Study requirements. has PDF and Word versions of workbooks for Scouts BSA ranks and merit badges, Cub Scouting ranks and adventures, and STEM Nova awards.

The Reptile and Amphibian Study merit badge is an option for the Harris Bronze Supernova and Edison Silver Supernova STEM Nova Awards.
  1. Reptile and Amphibian Study is a popular summer camp merit badge.
  2. Reptile and Amphibian Study is one of the elective merit badges for the William T. Hornaday awards for Scouts BSA.

Requirement resources

2. The blank US map for the general geographic distribution is in the workbook (PDF Adobe Acrobat PDF or Word Microsoft Word DOC document).
2. Reptile and Amphibian Distribution by State
3a,b,d. The Reptipage: FAQs Differences between reptiles and amphibians; between alligators and crocodiles; and between salamanders and lizards.
3c. The Difference Between Frogs and Toads
3e. Lizards & Snakes Commonalities and Differences in Lizards and Snakes.
4. Protected Reptiles by State
5. Amphibian An amphibian overview, including reproduction.
5. Reptile Reproduction
6. How Snakes Slither New research shows that snakes use friction hooks and weight distribution to propel themselves forward.
7. Venomous Snakes in North America
7. North America's Colorful, Venomous Lizard
9a. Frogs and Toads in Color and Sound
11. Mythunderstandings A collection of reptile and amphibian myths.

Related awards

Ecology-related awards

See also

Scouts BSA portal
Venturing portal
Sea Scout portal
General Merit Badge information

External links

Personal tools