iNat apprehension from land managers

Thanks for the info! I logged out and looked at my observations again and you’re right, I was just confused about what other folks could see since I saw the unobscured locations while logged in.


You can still get research grade without being specific about location on the granular level. Since I live within 10miles from the Pacific, if something is endangered or threatened, I might post and have add location be the Pacific Ocean or decrease level of accuracy of location to township or county. Thus, the observation is relevant enough for data collection and analysis.

See my posting on ways to prevent geolocation to the address level.
Too, you can still add your observation and general location by choosing a lower accuracy level. In this case you don’t need to obscure or privatize location. When you choose on the map where you observed said species, you can zoom out to the town level. This is what I do when traveling other countries or the species is vulnerable but deserves to be accounted for with regards to conservation and data collection.

When you do this, are you just changing the uncertainty radius, or are you also moving the origin of that radius?

If the former, you are really not obscuring location, as anyone can still see the central coordinates of the location. If the latter, then you are in essence creating “fake” data, which is a practice discouraged on iNaturalist.

If you are wanting to obscure an observation location to other users, the best way is to use iNaturalist’s built-in Geoprivacy -> Obscured option. This hides the true location from everyone except those you choose to give permission to, while still preserving the “real” underlying data.

Or, if you don’t mind something being Casual Grade for ID purposes, you can choose Geoprivacy -> Private which hides all location data.


i’ll refer you all to iNaturalist’s privacy policy: it says explicitly: “If You do not wish to have the time, date, place, or other identifying information of an Observation included on iNaturalist, You should not post an Observation.” note that the policy does not say that if you do not want to have place included in iNaturalist, you should use obscured geoprivacy. so i don’t fault any land manager for practicing exactly what iNaturalist’s policy advises.

the policy also goes on to say: “Unfortunately, We cannot guarantee that data transmitted over the Internet will always be secure. As a result, although We strive to protect Your Personal Information, We cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information You transmit or We may learn as a result of Your use of iNaturalist and You do so at Your own risk.”

who knows what people are willing to do? and who says that finding true coordinates for an obscured observation is necessarily difficult or that it requires a hack in the way that most people think of a hack?

if your photos include GPS metatdata, you need to be careful because your method does not change the GPS coordinates loaded with the photo. (so you’d need to strip out the GPS metadata before loading the photo.) you should also consider what tangatawhenua has to say.

i think this is the 3rd best way. the best way is to not post in the first place. the 2nd best way is to do what m0liveray is talking about (plus additional safeguards described by tangatawhenua), as long as you account for potential GPS metadata, too.

Absolutely, although I would more define it as using iNat to learn about potential new places to visit / explore. If I see something interesting in a location I’m unfamiliar with, I will research the location, and if it looks like a good trail system / conservation area or whatever, and is reasonable, then I will add it to my list of places to explore. While there, I will try to remember that something interesting caught my eye, and make a point of looking out for it.


Great points. I’ll add to this by noting that in my neck of the woods (western Nebraska/Wyoming/Dakotas etc.), almost all of the “public” land is leased for ranching/grazing/mining, etc. Unfortunately, some of these ranchers treat this PUBLIC land as if it were their PRIVATE property. More than a once I’ve been confronted by ranchers asking “what I was doing” backpacking, etc. on PUBLIC land adjoining/adjacent to their private land (thankfully most have been friendly/helpful).

So beyond all of the other benefits of iNat in terms of “nature” research, etc., it’s good that we get out there on OUR public lands and document these observations and encourage others to do likewise. Some of these “public” lands have become de facto extensions of private landowners, and “iNatting” on them (along with other responsible recreational uses) can have a beneficial effect of “reminding” everyone that these are public lands with open/public access, and are “valuable” beyond just cattle/ranching.


to be fair, ranchers/farmers do have problems with rustling/stock theft… I would expect them to be cautious in that regard

My personal experience has been that some property owners/managers are concerned with having rare species documented on the property. If, a rare species is found, a properties value can plummet or even become worthless to some because it can no longer be developed, just my .02 cents.

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Only useful for small land owners but -
Using the web application:
You can create your own chosen level of obsurity by widening an accuracy circle.

“Pinning”, ie saving the location in you uploader, makes this custom location quickly and easily usable for future obs.

You can delete Pinned locations whenever you want and I don’t think they are accessible to anyone else.

eg I made an observation in my residential garden, widened the circle to about 80metres (yards) and moved it off centre a little, named the locality with the street name and the suburb - you could just use suburb, or a made-up locality like “Smith St neighbourhood” or “housing near Shepherd Park” - and Pinned that location. It suggests about 8 possible addresses but maintains an indication of its proximity to forests, roads, coast etc.

Now I just use that Pinned location for all obs from my home. Saves having to edit anything again.

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Any rancher/farmer who mistakes me backpacking around–or typically driving my Prius around to get there–for a potential “rustler” needs to be in a different line of work ;)

The greater concern, suggested by another poster, is the endangered species issue, property values, etc. But private landowners certainly have no business deterring others from adjacent PUBLIC land for any reason, endangered species or otherwise. We should obviously be respectful and use basic common sense in these areas, but we also shouldn’t be shy/cowed (pun intended!) about using OUR public land for recreation, nature observation, etc., which was my main point :)

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Given the relative mania I’ve seen in some groups, I think it’s prudent to obscure all occurrences of certain species (e.g. psilocybin mushrooms), whether on public or private lands.

There are a lot of species that are auto obscured because they are threatened by collection risk (or other ideas). I’m not sure about that one. Is it rare or are you just not wanting people to get them ?

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I suspect that not everyone who’s after “magic mushrooms” is as careful as they should be about ID.

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probably not… but i don’t think iNat should be in the business of auto obscuring things because someone might hurt themselves out of ignorance. We don’t obscure cactus because someone might go touch it… That being said, individuals can always choose to obscure for any reason they want.


I once noticed that someone I’m following had posted a few observations of endangered crane species with the obscured location not too far from where I live. I contacted the user to see if the cranes really were seen nearby - in which case I would have been interested in going to see them - but it turned out that they were all from sites near military checkpoints at the DMZ/border with North Korea.


Speaking as a scientist interested in using iNat to document plant distributions, I typically regard obscured observations as having no value (this applies to herbarium data as well). Most importantly, they cannot be confirmed as occurrences in habitat (as opposed to cultivated plants), and iNat already has a serious data quality issue with cultivated plants that are not marked as such. Also, the occurrence cannot be verified, e.g. from a field visit or an independent replicate iNat observation or a herbarium record.

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Isn’t there a way to leverage an iNat project to obtain the actual location of obscured observations though?

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Yes, please see our FAQ here.

most of my observations are obscured, because they are located on the property of a girl scout camp.

we are using that data to conduct a species inventory, but we do not wish for a great density of observations on the map to draw visitors.

i am happy to share all of my data with people doing relevant projects, and i already belong to two relevant projects that are not mine.

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