Captive/Cultivated for Wildlife Rehabs?

If a wild animal is taken to a wildlife rehab facility, and the original location of the capture is unknown, should the sighting at the rehab be marked as “captive/cultivated”?
I know it can be problematic to mark a wild animal as captive in some cases, but at the same time marking an animal at an incorrect location can skew the data.
I have several sightings from a wildlife rehab and want to do my best to note them correctly.
At the moment, I have them listed as “wild” with the wide radius that the rehab services in order to indicate where they may have come from.

I know this is a similar question to a 2019 post, but I’m unclear on the consensus since some time has passed since that post.

1 Like

In the cases where we have an animal that’s in for rehab or release and we don’t know the original location I usually mark the release spot.

In our case the work area is small enough that it doesn’t really make much difference where we mark it though.


If the picture is taken at the rehab or at the release location, it should be marked captive. Essentially, if the animal is in the location because a human intended it to be (which it would be for rehab or release location) it is captive. If the animal is in a location because it intended to be, it is wild. If the animal is resighted near the release location after some reasonable period (a day or more?) and it appears to be behaving naturally, it would be wild at that point in my opinion, but there’s going to be some gray area there.


This is somewhat off topic but a similar situation as this discussion. I know that when it comes to museum specimens that so long as the date and location are accurate, the specimen can be marked as wild and can become research grade (the two observations of Ivory-billed woodpecker specimens are a great example of this) so I feel like the same concept can be applied to this situation.

Assuming that you know where the animal originated from or approximately where and can provide an accurate date then I don’t see why it can’t be wild and therefore research grade. Personally, I don’t really see the argument of marking an animal that was just received into the facility as captive, although that is up to any person’s discretion.

The only scenario that I could see where you would mark an animal captive in a rehab facility is when the animal has been there for an extended amount of time or cannot be released back into the wild for one reason or the other, even if the location of recovery and date is known. Once again, I think that’s up to the discretion of the observer. This situation, though, I think is also related to iNat policies on escapee pets. If you observed the animal when it became “feral” and in the moment it was wild, then it can be considered wild and have the ability to be research grade. Applying this same logic, you could in theory consider that observing an animal in a rehab facility it is not in that moment wild and should be considered captive.

In veterinary care for a few days? Still a wild animal.
With the location where it was rescued.

Captive if it can never be released to fend for itself in the wild.


This definition of captive goes along with the one we can find in the ‘Help’ section, so I’m guessing it’s the official definition:

Then, across the forum, it’s easy to find different statements, for example, just above:

Can we get an official statement from the Inat team here?

In my case, I deal with observations of marine organisms captured in a lagoon and put in a water tank 50m away for easier observation/pictures (they are released some days later).
All these creatures would not come to the water tank by themselves so they would be captive. The tank offers, however, a rare opportunity to get detailed pictures of organisms that, for some, are quite rare or even only added to Inat for the first time.

1 Like

I struggle with pinned dead insects are ‘wild, because it was when I caught it’
Then why doesn’t that same logic apply to a live rehab animal?

I think both you would mark as captive, if the location is where they are held/ kept, and wild if the location is where they were found/ taken., i.e. in this there does not have to be a disagreement per se between the abovementioned quotes and the text in the Inat-help (see comment by @ langzi).


In that case you know the exact location it was taken from and also the date (more or less)… Use this data (location of lagoon and capture date) for your observation and it should be fine to mark it as wild.

For the rehab center I see it differently (having worked in one myself)… the date of capture might be known, but location often is not. In the case of the centre I have been working for, the location could have been pretty far away, sometimes even crossing country borders. Also, many of those guest stayed an extented period of time… would mark those always as captured…


This approach seems valid to me, in cases where the animals didn’t stay long in rehab. As Ajott says, if they end up staying a long time, makes more sense to mark as captive.

Especially if the species is rarely recorded (e.g. this one of mine, a species with six total observations on iNat, all of them rescued or dead) it would be a shame not to record the rescued animal as a valid wild occurrence, with a large enough circle of precision to encompass the true location.

1 Like

I was giving my captive judgment based on the initial statement that

If it is truly unknown, and the location is marked as the rehab clinic (or anywhere that the specimen has been moved to be humans), I don’t think that there’s any gray area and that it is captive.

If the location accuracy circle is set so that it is certain to encompass the original capture location and the observation has the capture date/time (not the date/time of the photo), then it is probably ok to leave it marked as wild. But I would also suggest explaining this in a note/comment as many IDers will likely mark as captive without that.


This feels the most accurate to my situation, thank you for the clarification! I’ll mark it as such.

1 Like

Thank you everyone for your input. It seems there are many situations where this can quickly become a grey area. For these instances, I will mark them as captive since the location and date of capture are unknown to me. Since they’ll move to casual and are less likely to be further identified, I’d love some help continuing to identify their species for my own knowledge! If anyone wants to take a look and give some ID input, it’d be much appreciated.

An open feature request.

Can I get confirmation from other people as well? How long can something stored in the water tank be marked as wild?

I’d say “as long as you don’t have to care for it (feed it…) there”

1 Like

I think as long as the organism doesn’t change substantially (grow, metamorphose, etc.), you are probably ok. A good general rule of thump might be 1-3 days. I agree that if you are starting to feed or otherwise care for it, it probably becomes captive. If it’s a case where it is just one feeding to sort of keep an organism’s energy up or reduce captivity stress, that’s probably ok, but more would probably cross the line in my mind. The key is that the observation data (date/time/location/appearance) accurately represent those at the time of the original encounter when the organism was wild.