Advice for a non-herper?

Hi, I’m new to iNaturalist and am wondering about some of the best practices for reptile/amphibian observations. I’m not really a herper specifically, but I enjoy a good frog when I see one, and I would hate to upload information that could be easily abused. I know iNat automatically obscures location for particularly sensitive species, but I’d like to err on the side of caution. To sum it up:

  • How general should a location be?
  • Is it alright to post a public location for an organism of a common and expected species for that area? (i.e. a Common Garter Snake in a grassy suburban field in Oregon)
  • Are different color morphs at higher risk from poachers/collectors? (again, thinking of the Common Garter Snake)
  • Does time factor into the equation at all? (most of my Southern observations are from several years ago)
  • Does the organism’s age factor in at all? (are collectors more likely to go after younger/smaller specimens)

Thank you in advance for taking the time to help me out with this, I’m looking forward to learning some new things

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Some snakes are more desirable than others to collectors, such as many kingsnakes and certain rattlesnakes. Gartersnakes probably not so much. Unusual color morphs, as you suggest, can also be desirable. If you feel you might be alerting collectors to a good location for a desirable species that could be targeted, you can always obscure the site location. Not sure time is a factor as a good spot from several years ago could still be good. I don’t think age of the snake makes any difference.

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@jnstuart Thank you so much!

I wouldn’t worry about the specific situations that you described much. As long as your observation isn’t a rare/commonly poached species, I think the risk of anything untowards happening is quite low.

For unusual patterning on common species, I don’t think this will matter much as finding one individual snake in a population would be quite difficult. There would really only be pressure for collecting these if there’s already a culture for it around that species or serious money for specimens. I don’t think this is the case for common garter snakes. iNat has done a pretty good job of obscuring species that are under pressure.

In the case of some rare aberrant, time might help a bit, as it makes it less likely that that one specific individual would still be around (though as I said above, for common species, I don’t think this matters much). At the population level, a good spot for a sensitive species/population will still probably be a good spot years later, so you would probably want to obscure that if there was a reasonable concern about collecting.

If you do want to obscure, you can either use iNat’s obscuration function or do it “manually.” This would involve choosing to place your location pin on a site that is not the true location and setting an accuracy circle that does include the true location. I do think it’s worth mentioning that obscuring does remove some of the scientific value of an observation (if that is something that is important to you).

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Just pointing out that if you went to a public area and didn’t obscure the rest of your observations from that day but only the herp, it’d be easy to figure out where the herp was. If you were to find a threatened herp I’d suggest obscuring every observation from that window of time.
(Forgot that obscuring also obscures date/time in addition to location, so like @marina_gorbunova pointed out, uploading in a different order is the best thing to do)

No it wouldn’t, obscuration includes date, just need to upload it in a different order. Please don’t use obscure without need, it does affect data quality.

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Ah you’re right, that slipped my mind.

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Thank you so much everyone! I was unaware that obscuring an observation also included date/time, that does make things easier, but I will also be more mindful of what order I upload observations. Coincidentally, shortly after I made this thread I came across a discussion about a generally common species that has become locally threatened because of poaching and environmental disturbance, so I’m going to research species that may be specifically sensitive or desirable to collectors in my neck of the woods.

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