Feral vs captive/cultivated

Trying to make sure I’m using INat correctly. I was under the impression that animals that are feral (ie were domestic but are now living in the wild without human owners/intervention) are considered wild and therefore don’t need to be marked as captive/cultivated. A local park I visit regularly has several rabbits that don’t look like wild ones (usually black or dark brown rather than the normal brushy brown of a cottontail or other species), but they are definitely living in the wild and are no longer pets (even if they started as ones). However, when I’ve posted pictures of them people have given me a thumbs down for being a wild animal thereby moving the observation to casual status. I’ve gone ahead and deleted them for now because I have no interest in posting “captive” animals on here. So just trying to get a better understanding. Are animals like domestic rabbits that are now living free considered “wild” or are they better marked “captive/cultivated”?


Take a look at this topic: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/feral-observations-keep-getting-marked-as-casual/30407/33


The thread suggested by @sgene is getting a little too long and complicated to read through. I think the simple answer is that the rabbits you refer to meet the definition of wild/feral and should not be marked as captive/cultivated. Your options would be (a) to explicitly include a statement of their status (as you mention above) when you upload the images and/or (b) contact the individual iNatters who are marking the observations captive, explain to them the circumstances, and invite them to reverse their vote.

Q: Are the rabbits you’re documenting first-generation abandoned/released animals or are they the free-roaming progeny of the previously domestic/captive animals? That’s a subtlety that might affect someones vote.


It’s a good idea to leave the observations up. In situations like that they can be important information for the Establishment of a non-native population of animals, that could potentially become locally invasive.

Observations like yours can be really important for people working in conservation or who are tracking the impact of escaped domestic animals.

I’d very much encourage you to restore those observations, and to leave similar ones up in the future.


You can reverse the single Not Wild vote, by adding your own Wild vote.
A note or comment up front will pre-empt most disagreement about Wild / Not.


I agree with everyone else here. Repost with a short explanation.

1 Like

Thank you everyone! I’ll definitely keep that in mind for the future. I did leave an explanation on the posting that they were found in a park living wild, but I’ll make sure to maybe put it in my species identification next time so it’s more obvious. Thank you!


You were correct. Released/escaped/feral pet rabbits are considered wild. Near where I live they are a big problem. Tracking their spread is important.


There is a great group that tries to keep an eye on observations such as yours that get incorrectly marked “captive”.



I recommend writing in the description that they were found in a park and may be someones previous pets and are now feral.

As far as I know, “feral” means a domesticated animal that was born in the wild. If it’s an escapee, it’s a stray, though obviously INat doesn’t have an option for that. The distinction mostly matters if you want to catch the animal and make it a pet; strays can generally go back to living in human care, whereas feral animals have to be caught while very young to have a reasonable hope of doing well in their usual role. Think stray cat that may approach people to be petted, vs. feral cat that runs like the dickens if it sees a person.

For animals ‘feral’ can refer both to individuals that are descended from domestic stock, and to individuals that have escaped/been set loose.

The key is that they be living in the wild, not what generation they are.

Since plants generally can’t make a run for it ‘feral’ in their case usually means descended from domestic individuals, although it’s also sometimes used for situations were a formerly domestic plant has survived as the environment around it has reverted back to a more wild state. You’ll sometimes hear ‘feral’ being used in the context of an abandoned orchard that’s heavily overgrown, but still has a few of the original trees in it.

1 Like

If I use your definition if feral I do not come to the same conclusion that feral animals cannot be pets. My two former street dogs and thousands of others prove you wrong :slightly_smiling_face:

But the exact definition does not really matter for iNat as here you have domesticated organisms being cared for by humans in one way or the other and wild organisms that no human put at their location or cares for. Thats it.

Which iNaturalist defines as cultivated, because those trees were, at some point, planted there.

Interestingly enough, though, a feral child fits your description of a stray. Even more interestingly, if someone did observe an actual feral child in the wild, the observation would be marked casual because it is of a human.

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.