Apparently i look suspicios while making observation

Today while taking photo of some flowers was approached by concerned dude, that suggested that I’m making drugs stashes (I don’t know how this is ubiquitous in other countries, but it sure is a common way of drug distribution in Russia and some ex-USSR countries). And it turned out hard to explain what observation is and why a grown up dude doing something squatting near fence next to the road. And sure as day, I would think the same about me if I saw myself in this position. It’s not like I’m complaining, but guess I need to wear glasses or something


Welcome to the forum! I have similar concern when taking photos or random organisms I find (e.g. a dead bug I found on the floor), because I don’t want to look like a weirdo, but I’ve found that it’s a common issue on iNat. Just try your best to explain to anyone what you’re doing and how iNaturalist works. Who knows, maybe you can get that person to join too!


how about an iNaturalist hat or other merch?

some other related threads:


I’ve had similar run ins with Border Patrol in my are of the US. I go road cruising for snakes frequently and the agent who have been around know my vehicle or me, and the newer ones (or if I’m in a different vehicle) will stop me concerned that I drive like someone either stashing or picking up. If I show them photos of snakes they realize I’m the crazy person the other agents told them about. I had a sheriff deputy stop behind me once when I was going to get out of my car to get a photo of a toad. Ended up being one I knew and he promptly turned around and pointed to one and said “missed one”.


If I’m parking my car along roadsides to observe or collect plants, I sometimes print a page that says “Wildflower Survey” or something similar to reduce the number of people who see the car and stop to ask what I’m doing. I try to wear a flower themed shirt on those days, too.


Yep, this is a fairly common experience for both naturalists and scientists. I’ve been stopped by police multiple times as well as had other people call the police about me (and had the police block of the street, approach from both ends, etc.). It’s happened both in the city and rural areas.

People are suspicious of other folks taking pictures of things (or looking at things through binocs). I think just staying calm and explaining to people is your best first strategy. In the US at least, you can also just wear one of those orange safety vests. People pretty much accept any behavior from someone wearing those I feel like! But it also says “I am not trying to be sneaky”.

I agree with other folks that showing them photos of what you are doing is a good way to allay concerns. In my experienced, they are usually so surprised that I say “I’m looking for lizards” that they drop their guard. It’s actually led to some pretty good conversations.

I also think it’s worth noting that, while as naturalists we might feel like other people are being unreasonably suspicious, there are sometimes reasons people are nervous. In one interaction, a guy told me (after physically chasing a friend and threatening him) that they’d had a series of burglaries in the neighborhood and everyone was really on edge there. So I’m not defending the physical threats aspect, but there are external circumstances that we’re not aware of sometimes as naturalists.


Roadside botany is an unusual behavior. :grin: Two “women of a certain age” walking along a county road in eastern Colorado with a camera, hori-hori and fieldpress causes quite a few ranchers and farmers to stop and ask if we need help. When we explain that we are studying plants they tend to smile and shake their head. I imagine some tell their friends and have a good chuckle. I am OK with that.


I got accused recently of casing out a farm to steal their irrigation pipes. I guess they have had people steal them to sell as scrap. Once I explained we were part of the Christmas Bird Count and showed them my lists they said they were sorry. Still don’t think they understood though.


Me whenever I go to a public place to take inat photos


Ranchers in Wyoming loved to use that head shake when I explained why I wanted to look at the cell towers on their land for avian predator nests and collect scat. You could tell they just didn’t understand.


I stopped at a public lake in Ohio yesterday and took pictures of underwater quillworts at the shore. After a while a guy walked up to me and asked if I’m with the government. I said no, I’m looking at the grass. But he didn’t believe me and was convinced I’m here to test the water quality and told me of some recent suspicious activities he had witnessed at that lake.

I never thought I look like a government official rather than a thug :laughing:


Sometimes people see things they didn’t see! I once bent over to take a picture of some random expired milk jugs in the ditch that had been there a month based on the expiry date. A man ran out of his house from across the road and asked me who I was, where I live, who my mother is, and “what I put in my pocket”.
Some people are just paranoid!


I got caught on my knees in a public men’s room one time, camera in hand. How was I going to explain I was chasing Clogmia?


Nowadays, a lot of people don’t assume we go outside and do things we humans should do- forage, play, look at nature and all that. It’s always ‘someone outside is doing something suspicious’ now even kids can’t even go outside and play sometimes without looking like they’re doing something

There’s an article about a 9 year old trying to catch the invasive lanternfly only to get called the police on for being ‘suspicious’
Neighbor Calls Police on 9-Year-Old Black Girl Spraying Lanternflies (

Even I fear going across our own neighborhood sometimes, despite seeing a cool flower or bug. It’s an interesting modern phenomenon. Though, usually just talking can clear up misconceptions- it’s just interesting that there’s these assumptions in the first place! I usually have a scenario built up in my head anyways if I ever get confronted ‘It’s for a university project’! or something of the sort haha


I usually wear my neon orange vest because it gives me an extra front pocket for my camera to go into so it’s easier to get to, and so drivers have absolutely no excuse for almost running me over in the crosswalk.

I’ve so far only had one person get aggressive with me while I was birdwatching, I don’t know what he thought I was trying to do but he was filming me on his phone when he came to confront me and then when I was like “oh, I’m trying to get pictures of the bird” points at the tiny speck of a turkey vulture now flying away his whole demeanor just…dropped. Like he’d gotten himself so worked up apparently thinking I was some Dangerous Creep or something and then he was just so confused.

The rest of the time people assume I’m some Official Government / Organizational person.

I’m lucky I’m white, otherwise I could have seen that encounter going very differently.


Many of my moth observations were taken in public toilets during late hours because the lights are typically left on throughout the night. They are typically in the middle of a hiking trail, and thankfully the only people around are the mothing group I am with (containing both male and female members). We scour both male and female toilets.


After having the cops called on me once, I wear clothing that practically screams “I’m a birder”. eBird hat, shirt with a graphic of a turkey vulture on the back, camera strap decorated in bird silhouettes.


Why is it that I always assume USA when people act like this?


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A guy using a camera in a public restroom is probably never a good idea.