Am I the only iNatter that is pulled over on a bike almost every month?

I’m not fully sure if this counts towards being in the Nature Talk section, but I think it may be.

This is just me wondering, am I the only one on iNat Forum who has been ‘pulled over’ by cops, or a local school security guard in their cruiser, just because of collecting specimens?
I mean, seriously!? This is seven times in the past two weeks? How many times do I really need to show a permit and pull out a photocopy of non-commercial collecting rules document to the same three law-enforcement officers? Sure, when I’m occasionally chasing the fast-flying insects on my bike and with my net down the low traffic streets it might look a bit weird… But otherwise, I’m the only one that seems to be asked questions by cops/school security guards. And several of my friends do the same things, and still haven’t had this happen!

That makes eight times this month because I was asked to not “chase bugs” twice on the 3rd of April, and I was in my front yard!

23 Likes

I don’t get talked to that often, but that is a good reminder to keep your permits on you.

I did have one last year, I have a 25 year old multi-color (green purple and rust) car, that may or may not have a working muffler, and when out at a local county prairie (that I work for by the way), I had a neighbor call the county sheriffs. I got back to my vehicle to see a cruiser in front and a cruiser behind. Pleasant conversation after showing my ID’s and explaining what I was doing. I suppose in retrospect, I am glad that the neighbors care enough about the site to report possible problems like jalopies being dumped.

10 Likes

Yeah, I’ve found that even with a permit, it is best to not collect specimens near certain schools, and some they don’t even care. (I am allowed to freely collect any ‘pest’ insect species I want to at my old grade school, because they have mostly given up on trying to get rid of their huge ant populations inside, and outside of the building! Same with the carpet beetle problem…)
Otherwise, like if I forget to take my permit, I just say that I’m collecting vouchers to donate to OSU, which is usually true.

3 Likes

I had a college security officer come ask me what I was doing in a “ravine” (it was a small ditch) “deep in the woods” (it was a few trees) “hiding away from everybody” (it was visible from the windows of a nearby campus building, which is where he spotted me from) and when I said… uh, looking at this Osage Orange tree, why is that a problem? He wanted me to know I could have been doing drugs and my behavior was very suspicious. Just standing. In broad daylight.

I didn’t know about the entomology collections permissions thing at all, never having collected insect specimens. And actually my response may have been kind off off topic then - sorry. Though it does show how enforcement people decide anyone doing something “unusual” is a problem. He really wouldn’t let it go for a long while even if it was blatantly obvious there was truly no issue.

21 Likes

Years ago while doing night surveys for amphibians near the US-Mexico border, I got stopped by Border Patrol three times in a night. Understandable I’m sure since my activities seemed suspicious. One BP in a truck just dropped in behind my vehicle with his lights off and suddenly lit up his flashers which was alarming. Actually one stop wasn’t a stop at all, my truck and I got scanned by an infrared detector from a helicopter. This was before things got a little crazier on the border.

11 Likes

Yes, standing in ditches is a very bad “offense” apparently. I’ve been doing that less and less with how often I had to go through yet another long process of explaining to some police/security person what the heck I’m doing. It got too annoying having to explain it over and over.
We should design shirts that say I AM A NATURALIST, I’M MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS, LEAVE ME ALONE PLEASE on the front and the back of the shirt. : ) I really need one, or two. Maybe twenty.

22 Likes

Is the permit a US thing? I have never been harassed in Canada, although I go to the same areas all the time out of sight of the police. In the 80’s I used to walk through rural ditches all the time, but perhaps things have changed. Strange times we live in.

4 Likes

It depends on where you are and what you’re doing. If it’s on public lands managed for natural resources, you might need a permit to collect anything. If you’re on private land or appear to be “loitering” you might be approached by a law enforcement person if not a neighbor. I also have to be conscious of where I point my telephoto since there are people who take pics for other not so benign purposes.

11 Likes

Years ago a good friend of mine moved from Canada to Austin, Texas to do graduate school. Her supervisor was out surveying herps on a rural roadside when a land owner shot him without warning for “trespassing”, in spite of him being on a public right-of-way. The landowner was charged (don’t remember exactly what the charge was) but the jury refused to convict. In interviews it was revealed that the acquittal was based on a sense that the landowner honestly thought he was trespassing. So the cops tried to enforce the law but the xenophobes and paranoids still won.

EDITED to add: The supervisor was seriously wounded but survived.

13 Likes

In other words, we should get bulletproof vests when performing field studies.
Maybe I should just stick to remote islands, yards, and areas where firearms aren’t allowed. Maybe I could get permission to live in a hut in a National Forest? : )

I’m going out this weekend to an area that I haven’t been in a while, and I have been yelled at by the people who own houses nearby, they sometimes throw shoes at me like my late grandfather did out the window at racoons, it is quite amusing, but I will still try to keep a low profile this time.

I wish you all good luck, and a good night(depending on where you are at. For me it is almost 8pm), and my best regards. Thanks you.

10 Likes

I had a ranger demand to know if I was “stealing” plants because I parked at a roadside to photograph some. And the usual raised eyebrows and pointed questions from security guards and the likes. Not been bothered by any cops yet, but I go out of my way to avoid places where those are likely to be.

The best tactic I’ve found is to take a big breath and launch into an enthusiastic, and unnecessarily technical explanation of the organism in question, why it’s cool, how people need to understand its conservation status better, the failures of local government regarding its protection, and any other details I can think up - even the most inquisitive meddlers get glazed eyes and attempt to escape before long. It’s important to talk fast and not let them get a word in edgeways, but don’t be aggressive, just excessively informative. Bonus points if you can ask them to take action in some way, like writing to their congressman.

42 Likes

I have an ‘almost’ story regarding an encounter with rangers at the Fitzgerald Marine Preserve last month. It’s not exactly parallel, so I will have to figure out how to express it. Maybe tomorrow if I get my wits together.

8 Likes

Come iNat in Canada when the viral dust settles. Folks hardly ever get shot for collecting insects and lizards here.

I’m 67 and I’ve had exactly one cop question me for driving around rural neighborhoods with binoculars ever and he just explained that there had been a lot of break-ins in the neighbourhood recently and people were kind of jumpy and went on his way. At the time I was driving an old pick-up with the word PAIN on the tailgate in large letters. I had bought it used from a painting company and had been removing the decals with a hairdryer when I realized that PAIN was kind of an apt slogan for a guy who was doing triathlons and half-marathons (which I did for years) and left it there in a moment of perverse inspiration. Maybe not the best way to avoid notice.

16 Likes

Really? On what grounds? ( no pun intended!)

5 Likes

I was once phoned by police to tell me my car had been found abandoned, presumably stolen, beside the road beside a significant wildlife area of reserve. Presumably believed abandoned because there were no concrete paths, seats, or signage, so no reason for anyone to visit the area. [Irony]
The car was only a little bit old…about 20 yrs, no broken bits, not exceptional:) and fortunately I was back home, (this was pre-mobile phone days) with the car safely parked at home, by the time I got the call, so was just a bit confused.

10 Likes

Yeah yeah, standard excuse #1 to initiate an interrogation without probable cause. :expressionless:

10 Likes

ACAB. No other grounds are needed.

4 Likes

“I’m a Naturalist, not a Crackhead!”

5 Likes

I’ve only had one interaction with a cop while taking photos of insects. But it was years before I joined iNat. I was pretty much laying on the ground, with my elbow on the curb, in the parking lot late at night with a macro setup, I had just got off work so I stuck around to look for what the overhead lights might have attracted that night. To the cop, it must have looked like I was on something, and barely conscious from a distance. He turned on his strobes before he got out to approach me. I also noticed he had his hand on his gun before he saw my camera. But that was the climax, though. Had a short talk about entomology before he got back in his car and left me be. Sucks to hear what you’re going through, though.

5 Likes

У нас, в Беларуси, с подобными ситуациями не сталкивался. Максимум поинтересуются кто я и что делаю. В рамках общего любопытства.

3 Likes