Criteria used for obscuring taxa?

What criteria does iNaturalist use to determine if a species should automatically have its location obscured? For instance, in Pennsylvania Timber Rattlesnakes are a Species of Special Concern and iNaturalist obscures their location but in other states where they are not protected their locations are not obscured.

I don’t want to mention specific species publicly but the other day I found out there are a number of protected species in Pennsylvania, including an S1S2 Pennsylvania Endangered Species, an S2 Pennsylvania Candidate Endangered Species, and multiple Pennsylvania Species of Special Concern ranked from S1 through S3S4, whose locations are freely available on iNaturalist despite only occurring in a few locations or being threatened by poaching.

Question number two would be how to resolve this short of messaging every user who submits an observation of these species in Pennsylvania and asking them to obscure them?


For province and state level designations, the site typically follows NatureServe. If there is something you feel should be looked at, either the data is not in synch or something that does not need to be obscured (or does) the best option is on the relevant taxon page to use the flag for curation option and fill in the details.


In Canada, we now have a system where local conservation bodies are controlling the lists of obscured species (with changes requested by site users). Elsewhere, there is no formal process. Some jurisdictions have the statuses included, some don’t, some are out of date. These statuses can then be updated by site curators.

Technically, site curators are the ones who are able to change the status of a species. For the species concerned, I would suggest flagging them and explaining your request and rationale:

The box for flagging doesn’t accept very many characters. I would suggest just putting something there like “Please obscure this species in Pennsylvania”, then navigate to, find your flag, and explain in more detail in the comments.


Awesome! Thank you so much for the prompt replies. I’ll make sure to flag those species for curation!


@ctracey and @pete_woods are with DCNR and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy–if there’s a taxon that needs to be obscured in PA and you don’t want it publicly flagged, I’d suggest messaging them.

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@kyles_hikes Thanks for the great question, and welcome to the forum! In addition to the excellent responses so far, I’ll suggest a couple of long and winding reads on other discussion threads, if you want to catch up on the various pros and cons of obscuration that the community has identified:

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