Are non-releasable rescues considered captive?

Let me give an example. Recently, my local bird rehab facility had an open house and they did a tour around all of their raptor rescues, most of which can’t be released to the wild, such as a Great Gray Owl female was hit on the interstate in 2002. Since she lost an eye in the accident, though she can fly completely fine, she is can’t be released. Does that deem her captive?

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We’ve had several discussions that touched on wild vs captive animals, e.g.

I think there was general agreement that wild animals taken into captivity temporarily and then released would be considered wild again after release. However, I don’t remember us discussing the situation you describe, where there is no prospect of release. My instinct says that an animal that has been captive for 17 years, reliant on humans all that time, and with no prospect of release, is effectively captive permanently now, even though wild originally.

I don’t think setting a fixed time in captivity before an animal’s status changes would be easy or even useful. Perhaps ‘no prospect of release’ could be the trigger for captive status in these cases. Interested to hear what others think.


It depends… if it is an observation at the time of her “rescue” then she would be wild, and if at any time subsequent, then captive. At least, that is my position, but it is a grey area case so you will probably find a range of responses and with varying reasons as well.

Remember, though, that it is a “vote” situation, and grey area cases like this are probably best left to that vote… ie the observation describes the situation, and then identifiers make their assessments and put wild/captive settings appropriately.


I would agree - if the observation location is where the owl was found (even if some or all of the photos were taken afterwards) then I would count it as wild.

I think any additional observations made whilst the bird is in captivity should be marked as captive regardless of whether the bird can be released.


Agreed with commenters above. I think if the situation of the animal being in captivity influences the time and location that the organism was observed, then the observation can’t be considered “wild”. If the time and location represent where the injured animal was found naturally/before captivity/rescue, that would be a legit “wild” observation.


As much as I agree with the comments above, this statement is kind of my gray area. As I mentioned above, I took a lot of observations of these captive non-releasable and I make them as captive (just wanted secondary opinion). However, if a bird can be released then yes I believe it should be marked as wild, such as the Red-tailed Hawk observation I took the same day at the rehab. Though he’s in his little building, he was scheduled to be released that afternoon. I see that as grounds to make it wild.

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I would think that photographing any bird in a rehab centre and posting that would be equivalent to capturing an insect specimen and bringing it back to school and then photographing and posting it. I.e. it is no longer wild, and the location and date are inaccurate unless edited to be when and where it was originally found.


While it’s in the rehabilitation center, it is captive (whether it will be released later or not). Photos taken at the time and place of capture would be of a wild bird.

The only gray area I can see involves captive birds on the day of capture or release. If they were posted with the location of capture or release, I’d be willing to accept them as wild by iNaturalist standards.


This is the wonderful thing about a vote situation like we have on the DQA… you (and others) will think it is wild in those situations and you get to determine that way, and those of us who think it should be marked captive in such situations get to mark it such, and the “system” comes up with a setting that is representative of the majority. It is good to have these discussions about them though, so we can be “exposed” to other ways of thinking and other situations that might influence our own positions.


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