Cats - wild versus domestic

“I think an important aspect of this discussion is that horses and other large herbivores used to be part of the North American landscape.”

True. However, I think that’s pretty much irrelevant now.

These large herbivores used to be here. They were part of complex ecosystems that included several predator species that could kill them in large enough numbers to control their populations. Those ecosystems lacked plants that have radically changed western ecosystems recently, like Cheatgrass and Tamarix. Those ecosystems were not being grazed by herbivores that were supported through winter and drought the way livestock are now. And they weren’t living on land that had been overgrazed for decades the way domestic livestock have overgrazed much of the west.

Therefore, horses, cattle, and other large herbivores can and do have serious negative effects on our current ecosystems. Are they beneficial to these ecosystems? Sometimes. But the harm they usually do usually far outweighs the good. We could manage western ecosystems to support (limited numbers of) wild horses and domestic cattle and still recover slowly from the decades of mistreatment. But we don’t.


Well that’s just it, isn’t it. The broader issues with the US and other similar countries doing an absolute dumpster-fire job of managing ecosystems mean the horses, cows, and cheatgrass continue to wreck everything. It’s not clear if anything could be done with the cheatgrass at this point, but if we want horses and/or cattle in this environment we need to do a much better job of managing how we do so


Do you have any papers on this supposed lack of negative ecological impact? Or have you just hearing people saying their impact is minimal? Because there’s a lot of crazy people that say that and a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Ecology isn’t rocket science, it’s really hard.
Rabbits in Australia, introduced for gentlemen’s Sunday afternoon shooting. (Does that make them feral?)
Anyway, bunnies are a huge problem in Australia, uncontrollable except by various diseases that work brilliantly until resistance builds up, and the next disease is introduced.
Where I spend a lot of time, there used to be native ‘soil engineers’. They’d dig habitat holes, that other animals used for shelter from heat, cold and fire. They’d dig for insects, truffles, roots. Generally shallow holes. But they’d spread fungus spores, necessary for many plants to thrive. They’d break hard soil crust, allowing water to seep in. And the dirt excavated would cover and allow rotting of covered vegetable matter - a big plus for fire-phobic whitefellas. The little holes would accumulate wind blown leaves, seeds, promoting germination. etc etc.
Now I notice, apart from the rare echidna digging, it’s really only bunny scratchings that perform any of these functions, so at the moment I’m happy with the low level of bunnies we have.
Maybe next year I’ll be tearing my hair out and crying about them.

European Rabbits in Australia would not be classified as feral in Australia as they are not descended from domestic stock.

Still a moot point - they arrived in cages, on purpose, unlike, say, Patterson’s Curse.
I have (a) no opinion, (b) multiple conflicting opinions.

Wild, feral, domestic, 50 shades of grey.

On ‘rangelands’, sparsely populated, largely unfenced, I can think of several grades fo ‘grey areas.’

Merino sheep get rounded up once a year for shearing. Sometimes you get one with 2 or 3 years of wool on them (not 4 years, they die from the weight). Sometimes with an ear tag from a couple of properties away. Or still with a tail and no ear tag.

Dorper sheep, (meat sheep and better adapted to dry lands) are further over in the grey area. One might be three generations and 4 properties from its origin. As a conservation ecologist I say it’s feral, but farmers call it stock.

Feral goats. !!! South Australian Government says they are feral, and farmers should do everything practicable to control their numbers. Pretty open ended. In practice, many farmers make a large income by rounding up goats every year or two, and manage to leave enough to breed up for the next roundup. In this case, as a conservation ecologist I say it’s feral. If asked, farmers say they’re feral, but I say in fact they are stock.

And the ongoing political debate re: dingos. After only 5,000 - 10,000 years since anthropogenic introduction, are they considered natives. Generally yes. But for any individual, is it a dingo or a wild dog? The answer generally depending on whether you like sheep or you’re a greenie. And even recent genetic analysis is still subject to political argument.

For these, and re:cats, I think you stake out your politics and then take a guess.

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“Feral” specifically refers to animals of domesticated stock that have become wild. By definition, Australia’s rabbits cannot be feral.


The case of Dingoes is a moot point for this tread, because no matter how you classify them taxonomically they’re still considered wild on iNat.

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What you’re describing should all be marked as wild on iNaturalist. They aren’t pets, they’re problematic and roaming, they should be marked as wild on the site. I think many people have more opinions or conflicting opinions like you later mention, which is fine, but the site’s staff has made statements already to counter other viewpoints and have formally stated that stray and feral animals are considered wild on the site. I take that to mean that all this other discourse is okay but won’t change how the site perceives these instances. For all intents and purposes, if it is not a pet, it is most likely an animal that should be marked as wild, imo. To put it in simplest terms.

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yeah as others have said, despite origin and ecological impacts, the invasive rabbits in Australia will be considered wild on iNat. A bunny in a hutch, not so much. A dingo yes. A dog on a leash taking a walk no. There will always be grey areas but this doesn’t seem to be one of them.


What you’re describing should all be marked as wild on iNaturalist.

maybe you could edit this post to specify which “What you’re describing” you are referring to. My post beginning “Wild, feral, domestic, 50 shades of grey.” or my post beginning “Ecology isn’t rocket science, it’s really hard.”

“For all intents and purposes, if it is not a pet, it is most likely an animal that should be marked as wild,”
-sheep and cows?

Stock and farm animals are more in line with being a pet than a wild animal and I would lump them together on the site. Obviously they’re different in the world but that was what I meant. They’re cared for as a pet is and are kept within a certain area on purpose, like how a pet is. I guess it’s just like an outdoor pet, but not quite how a free ranging cat is because those have free range, where farm animals tend to have an enclosed area they roam.

I actually should’ve responded to your other comment instead because I was referencing the goats and dingos. I see I didn’t even respond to that comment though so that wasn’t clear. The sheep I would assume to be captive unless you think one had escaped from where it was meant to be, but that would be a situational thing that only the observer’s context would be able to clarify.

At least not the (currently) invasive lineage.

no, i don’t think they’re captive. humans may be intending to feed them, but they don’t intend to interact with them. if you were to “tame” or heavily socialize a wild animal to the point where you could pet them and maybe even hold them, then the lines get a bit blurry. i think the captivity starts when you start holding them in one place via some kind of enclosure. also, ask the question of ownership – could someone confidently say “that’s my bird”? if so, it’s probably captive. if not, it’s probably not captive.

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What’s the difference then between this and a bird that just builds trust with a human and then flies away and comes back on its own volition? A lot of people who feed birds will eventually get birds that land on them and will trust them, and they can be identified by name by that person, but they still leave afterwards and live in the wild, and are a wild animal.