I started this topic due to a specific Facebook thread that was concerned with current iNaturalist policies. Here are some of the responses in that thread - nearly all of these are different people:
"I was just researching a state listed species in google when I blundered on to a crap load of Inaturalist records with photos and explicit street addresses.
While I’m real happy to have had my search made so easy, really people? Is that amateurs who don’t know any better? Or is this the high tech evolution of the “Listers” who brag on how many reports they make?
I am definitely talking about a poacher friendly animal for sure."
“This is why I recommend HerpMapper over iNaturalist. HerpMapper by default obscures records to the county/province level”
“There’s been herpetologists and biologists who are trying to contact iNaturalist because it gives poachers exact locations. I agree with using Herpmapper. If you feel strongly about it try contacting iNaturalist. Many have without much response but if more people voice their concerns, maybe they will change how they represent location data.”
“After introducing a bunch of people to iNaturalist I’ve found that for some reason they CANNOT figure out the location settings when posting observations.”
“poaching is a real problem in Maryland . You can’t tell anyone where you find stuff . And I know this sounds crazy but I think someone has been going around killing copperheads in Baltimore County this year”
“Blanding’s turtles, spotted turtles, wood turtles, massasaugas, and even five lined skinks have been hammered hard in Ontario Canada and around the Great Lakes. In one case, 3/4 of an entire wood turtle population was taken in 2 or 3 visits - more than 200.”
“I can tell you overcollection had a drastic impact on the corn snakes in Jasper County, especially in the vicinity of the Okeetee Hunt Club, and that goes back a few decades. Poaching and overcollection has always been a problem. Today, it’s unfortunate that so many herp populations are so badly fragmented, that some collection really takes a toll. That’s definitely the case up here where I live. Texas, Arizona, and some other wild places still have decent populations of herps, but even there, there’s poaching pressure on twin spotted rattlesnakes, for example.”
“I only use iNaturalist for researching new locations to look for protected species. People are dumb, often reliably so. I’m surprised it’s still up and running the way it is.”
“I have to admit, as someone who has been researching this kind of thing since it meant physically visiting college libraries, I can’t get used to google giving me the street address of a listed species in 90 seconds.”
“That’s exactly why iNaturalist needs good IDers. Good observers staying away is one reason the data can be off.”
“I only post common species to iNaturalist. Honestly I mostly use it for fish. I will admit, I kind of wish there was a way to keep off people who are on there with bad intentions.”
“I would say that the majority of those iNat observations that you are looking at are general naturalists or nature aficionados that don’t understand or know the sensitivity of the species that you are looking for info on.”
And finally, this Facebook update was posted into the thread:
“I’ve been MIA posting because it’s been a busy summer this year. This represents only a fraction of the confiscated animals I’ve been dealing with. These Eastern Box Turtles are highly sought after for their incredible colors. US posachers sell them illegally to buyers in Asia, Europe, and even the US. I’m working with some good friends at northeast PARC, local universities, and state and federal agencies to figure out a solution to the madness.”
I myself have found unusual morphs of otherwise common species whose location I obscured because I knew they would be poacher targets. But how many observers don’t know to do that? If we really obscured every poacher-targeted species to 26km or whatever the status quo is, the obscured list would probably increased by a factor of five at least. And how devastating would that be to everyone’s inventory projects? Not to mention how many species in non-Western countries that don’t have advocates telling iNaturalist their records need to be obscured. That’s why I feel some sort of duel system is necessary.