Are Caiman Lizards Legal in New Mexico?

Owning exotic pets has become a popular trend, with people seeking unique and fascinating creatures to add to their collections. One such reptile that often catches the attention of enthusiasts is the caiman lizard. However, before considering adding one of these striking creatures to your home in New Mexico, it’s essential to understand whether they are legal or not.

In New Mexico, as is the case in many other states, there are specific regulations and restrictions regarding the ownership of exotic animals. The primary governing body overseeing this matter is the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF).

The caiman lizard (Dracaena guianensis) falls into the category of non-venomous reptiles which can grow up to four feet long. These lizards originate from South America and possess an array of unique characteristics that make them stand out among other reptiles.

Unfortunately for reptile enthusiasts residing in New Mexico, caiman lizards are currently classified as “non-domestic species” by NMDGF. This designation means that obtaining a permit for owning a caiman lizard within state borders is extremely challenging.

NMPED Regulations – Prohibition on Non-Domestic Species

In accordance with 19.35 NMAC regulations laid down by the Natural Heritage Act administered by NMDGF:

“No person shall import into or possess within this state any live non-domestic animal declared injurious or potentially injurious except under permit issued by department personnel.”

Based on these regulations, individuals interested in owning a caiman lizard would need to obtain a specialized import permit from the NMDGF. However, it’s important to note that these permits are typically only issued for scientific research or educational purposes, rather than as companion animals.

It is crucial to adhere to local laws and regulations when it comes to exotic animal ownership. Violations of the New Mexico state wildlife code can result in significant fines and potential imprisonment.


The exact amount of fines for illegal possession of a caiman lizard or any other non-domestic species varies based on specific circumstances and the discretion of law enforcement officials involved. Fines can range from several hundred dollars up to thousands depending on the severity of the violation.


In some cases, individuals found guilty of violating wildlife laws may also face imprisonment, which could range from several days up to years depending on the offense committed. It is essential not only for legal reasons but also for ethical ones, that pet owners understand and comply with relevant legislation surrounding exotic animal ownership.

In summary, if you reside in New Mexico and harbor dreams of owning a caiman lizard as an exotic pet, unfortunately current state regulations make this highly challenging. As per NMDGF guidelines regarding non-domestic species possession within state borders without appropriate permits is prohibited by law outside specific circumstances such as scientific research or educational activities. Always ensure you fully understand local legislation before considering acquiring any exotic animal so you can enjoy your pets legally while promoting their welfare within responsible boundaries.