Encountering and dealing with unfriendly people while iNatting

I had razy day today! For 30 mins I had to explain to a drunk woman that I can’t record her an angry video for her ex and “put it everywhere”, it was a rollercoaster of insanity, I can’t put too much details about what she told me about her life, as it’s pretty embarassing, but it’s a first for me and it ruined my first day of bioblitz as I had to head home much faster than I thought I would, almost no insults, just really weird and I tried this time not to say anything controversial and it helped.


This week a lot of users from the Naturalista Mexico shared am article about a couple that got killed during iNatting. I used to live in Mexico and I never met unfriendly people while iNatting, however many people we met warned us how dangerous it could be.

That is a real tragedy, I hope somebody contacted staff, so they could mark the account as closed, going out in the dark time is the most nervous thing to do for iNat.


I hope there are other (not crazy) people around when you are out.

Sometimes! Mostly peple who think it’s okay to loudly talk about you when you’re standing right in front of them or even pointing fingers. I meet 2-3 people a month with whom I talk about iNat, but don’t know if they ever actually use it.


I am a middle age white overweight father. I will never understand a person that behaves the way you encountered. But they are out there. I never go out without watching my surroundings and I carry a good fogging pepper spray (not the gel). I have never had to use the spray but situational awareness has kept me out of trouble many times. I have learned this the hard way at times. In Arizona doing contact mapping for a geology class, we walked along roads at times to gain access. We walked facing the traffic always. In general people go where they are looking and they usually are looking at you. I had a few cars drift too close and had to move aside. There was 1 car that swerved toward me that I thought was on purpose. People even threw things at others in our group.
In Texas I stumbled upon an illegal operation that was likely guarded by armed people. I left immediately and filed a report. In minnesota I was shot at while doing a frog call survey at midnight. I got back in my truck and turned on all the lights just in case they just didn’t know I was there and the shooting stopped. I was on a county road surveying state land. I made a report of the shooting and cancelled that route. It turned out to be a property owner that had enough of the 4WD and partying on the state land. They got a talking to and I did not file charges. On a different frog route, I was confronted by a group of youths in a pickup because I looked out of place. In this case I used the frog call survey sign as a credential and explained briefly what and why I was there.

To deal with these things emotionally I can only suggest you need to find training so you can be aware of what could happen and plan your responses. Then you must practice, practice, practice. With practice you will find when and why you will use verbal defenses or pepper spray without over reacting. Carry an official looking credential that Identifies affiliations with iNat, Master Nat and the State if you can. Even If you make your own, it can go a long way. Verbal stoppers like “I am not allowed to do that sir.” Or my favorite for when people try to drag me into an argument, “Stop it, You’re embarrassing me”. And, If someone insults you, let that remind you that you need to get away… This takes emotional strength. Just thank them and walk away. Other things I have learned are to hide your hands subtly behind you to create doubt, If a person approaches too close, bring an arm up to guard your space and back away. Ultimately, your goal is to keep yourself safe and to get away from upsetting situations.

One last point is this, I am a middle aged white overweight father. It happens to me. I have to prepare and practice dealing with these encounters just as you and we all should. To be safe, save your faith in humanity for friends and those that have earned it.

Sorry for such a long post
Take care.


Well it happened to me again yesterday. There I am minding my own business taking photos of plants at a public location and a man approached me asking me what I thought I was doing. I’m a shy person so was, as usual, taken aback and my first instinct was to get all defensive. Instead of doing that though I fell back on my normal line of “taking photos of plants”. As usual this defused the situation, but this time I couldn’t get rid of him after I explained what I was doing. He followed me around asking things like “what’s this flower”, “what’s that” etc. It was quite unusual and a bit unsettling but perhaps that’s just a result of my introversion. Eventually I was comfortable enough to ask him why he approached me, and he said it was because of my “big camera” and he was afraid that I was going to put together a report that impacted on his nearby home. Weird, but I guess it makes sense.


I try really hard to conduct myself in a very polite and kind manner, no matter the situation, but stuff like that, really tests my patience if it’s done in an ill-mannered way.

I tend to be relatively standoffish in general when I am approached by a stranger, for many reasons and concerns, especially as a shy person who prefers to be left alone.

That being said, I’ve had people approach me before while I’m taking pictures on my phone for iNaturalist, not because I’m taking pictures but because they recognize me, which is besides the point, but the questions I’ve gotten in response to why I am taking the pictures have startled me at times. It kind of brings a sense of awareness to how unaware some people are of their surroundings and the nature around them. Saying I’m taking pictures simply to document species around me is met with a lot of confusion. Even when specifying that the pictures are for an app, the confusion is still there. It’s just an unheard concept to so many, especially younger, people.

Science is cool. Just let us do science stuff, ya know? It bums me out that so many people have unpleasant, even confrontational experiences while they’re just trying to do something they enjoy.


It’s a comon joke among iNatters! People are really confused by what we do. Today I was photographing plants in an urban setting and a father with his little girl passed me and he asked “what’s so interesting up there?” with a little bit demanding tone, I answered “plants”, “that?!” he asked poiniting at a random one, “yes” => O-O
Far from first time asked about plants, but this interaction was both short and entertaining.


One advantage of living in bear county is you’re more likely to draw suspicious comments if you aren’t openly carrying bear spray, especially when alone…

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A recent incident was a fairly large dog that was not on a leash. The dog came right up to me on a trail, barking and growling as the couple were saying “it’s OK, he’s friendly”. I told them said dog should be on a leash since it was a public park. They just looked at me blankly.


(we/us pronouns) This sounds scary. We are relieved that you wrote it about it here so that you can get your needs for connection and support met. We notice how active you are in this community, and we want to offer our support to you.

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Thank you for your kind words!

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I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. I’m thankful you’re okay. Once I had to leave a mall early before I even started shopping and once I had to leave a library early because of being pestered. Both places should have been safe, but they weren’t right then. I empathize!

I wish I could bake you an apple pie.


oh jeez, that’s a whole other angle. no one recognizes me as Famous Veg Mapper but all my interactions have been positive in this regard. I’ve had negative ones doing surveys for work especially in California. In Vermont people tend to be nicer

this is the WORST, not only that the dog is off leash when they shouldn’t be, but that the dog is acting aggressive. Even if the dog is truly harmless this is totally unfair to people with phobias. And kids. it would scare the crap out of my kids.


well I have not encountered such incidents because I don’t go out inatting out of my house with that fear only, because green area around my house is parks and in parks the children play, Since I look look like a fully grown man and sometimes interact to children to teach them a little, parents could easily suspect me, and every weird person gets its beating, before parents hand over them to police. So most of my observation from home only.

That’s sad to hear! I hope you’ll be able to find somebody to come with you and not look too suspicious, but I heard about many accidents with biologists in the woods met with attacks, so if it’s a real danger for you it’s not worth the risk!

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@diablo i totally understand what you are saying. Part of my training protocol for budding “male” naturalists is don’t take pictures of children and women, ask before and even then avoid. when using binoculars - rule of thumb is if there are women in any direction then avoid using it.

There is a lot of nonsense on the internet and people are quite capable of misconstruing things. Sad state but in this case better safe then sorry.


and I want to add further more that please take care of yourself, and when you find yourself in situation like that please don’t show any signs of fear, at all, and if the person is speaking loudly and like shouting its better to not to argue with that person it will make the situation worse, and please don’t cry again if that situation happens again as it is simply not your fault,
stay strong, stay happy, stay healthy :)