Piggyback naturalists

what to do when someone is tracking your location ? i live in a small neighborhood with a small walking path close to a creek. i’ve lived here since i was a child and have been so happy with the flora and fauna growing with the rain. however, others have been tracking my location, and uprooting many of the mushrooms i’ve tried to observe. keep in mind this is not a public park, this is across from my home. it seems like this person only uses the locations of others to find mushrooms and then rip them out of the ground and mark them as her own observations. how do i kindly tell this person to leave my neighborhood and stop uprooting mushrooms before full fruition??? ive been trying to see how big some of these shrooms can get but a piggyback has been stalking the observations of mine and my peers even showing up to their private homes in hopes of photographing the mushrooms on their private property. the other day i met a woman who i tought simply had come across my neighborhood and it’s wonders, but no, she has been tracking my observations and followed me to my childhood home. this is strange. any thoughts???


keep in mind ive had no one visit my neighborhood since ive posted on inat, almost wish i had just obscured my location but its too late and shes become familiar with my neighborhood

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Welcome to the Forum! Sorry it has to be under such circumstances for you.

Sounds like there could be some cause to involve law enforcement here. But at the very least, consider using obscured or private geoprivacy for all your observations going forward, and retroactively obscuring your previous ones. Instructions for doing so can be found here:


Yes, they may already know your general neighborhood, but lack of location detail may still be a worthwhile deterrent. Also avoid identifiable backgrounds in your photos that could lead them to deduce the location.

If you believe you know the specific iNaturalist user(s) involved, don’t post them here, but email help@inaturalist.org with the details, in case action by site staff is warranted.


If it is mainly mushrooms she is picking, if you delay a couple of weeks between taking the photo and putting it on iNaturalist, the mushrooms will be rotten by the time she gets to them.


If you still want to, you can batch edit them and obscure them all at once.


that should be reported. Not acceptable.


welcome to the community.

i can tell you’re upset, and i’m sorry you had to find out about the pitfalls of posting geolocations this way. it’s not always obvious that posting geolocations can lead to others using those locations for reasons you may not want to encourage, and i wish there was more onboarding information to educate users about this. (but that’s a different topic.)

so what to do at this point?

first, it’s always worth considering waiting some period of time before posting observations so that folks cannot find your location in real time.

next, if you want to keep the location of your neighborhood relatively private, i think:

  • update your existing observations near your house so that the true coordinates are no longer public, and continue to take measures to protect those coordinates in future observations. others have noted that you can use the geoprivacy options within iNaturalist, and that’s fine, although i will point out that the geoprivacy functions may not entirely protect those coordinates from a determined stalker. (the only way to fully protect yourself is to avoid posting true locations at all.) an alternative is to set the coordinates at a nearby public place, and add positional accuracy value that will encompass the true location of the observations. for example, it looks like there are a couple of nearby public parks. you could set the coordinates of your observations at one of those parks and then set the positional accuracy value to, say, 1500m, which should encompass the original true locations of the observations.
  • talk to your peers observing in the area, and ask them to take similar measures to protect the location of the neighborhood.
  • maybe even reach out to the woman who visited your neighborhood, explain that you’d prefer to de-publicize the location of your neighborhood, and ask her to take similar measures to protect the locations of the observations she made in your neighborhood.

that said…

obviously i don’t know the whole situation, but just from my distant perspective, it’s not clear to me that the woman is doing anything particularly unreasonable, and i would not necessarily want to jump to conclusions about what happened.

the observations that she posted are all in that space along the street, not in any specific residential yards. that space along the street is not a public park, as you noted, and county records indicate it is a common area owned by the PUD. but judging by photos on Google Maps Street View, it’s difficult to tell that this is not strictly a public space, and i don’t see any signage telling non-residents to stay out of the space either. on a map, the space kind of looks like part of a greenway or pedestrian corridor between two local public parks. (the woman also has recent observations at one of those parks.)

you noted that she has been tracking your observations and followed you to your home. now, if she actually walked behind you while you walked to your house, i would agree that that’s strange and unsettling, but if she just went to the location of your observations to see what you saw, and you just happened to bump into her while she was there, i wouldn’t call that unreasonable. i know of users who regularly visit the locations of interesting observations that they find on iNaturalist, and i’ve been known myself to visit locations of existing observations, usually attempting to capture better details for better identification.

finally, you noted that she showed up at folks’ homes in hopes of photographing mushrooms on their property. if she was wandering into their homes or yards without permission, that’s definitely ill-advised. if she was taking photos from the public street, that’s probably not great either, but probably relatively harmless. if she noticed something really interesting and knocked on someone’s door to ask for permission to take photos, then that may be unusual, but i don’t think that’s necessarily a terrible thing.

anyway, i’m not trying to discount an experience that obviously unsettled you. but maybe, if looked at from another perspective, things might not actually be so bad? of course, if you re-examine the situation and still think it looks bad, trust your instincts, and take other actions, as needed.


You could also comment on her mushroom obs. that you recommend not uprooting all of them just for the sake of ID. It may be more acceptable to uproot one while leaving others, or she can simply try photographing the gills etc. without uprooting. Also in general although maybe nonapplicable here, when mushrooms are in public places at least some people destroy them for many reasons, by kids or by the perception that doing so would clean up the landscape or prevent dogs from eating them, etc.

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Unfortunately it happens where people will take the locations and abuse that knowledge. I’ve had similar situations where people took the locations and used them in hopes to run into me, which is a bit different, but the abuse of having the location is the same.

First line of action for me was the police because I was concerned for my well-being at that point, which I could say is arguable in your case, as well, but that does depend on how you feel. You can always comment or message the user and say that it’s not appropriate behavior and then depending on how that goes, the police are an appropriate route to take in my opinion. I think the cops could be an appropriate route immediately honestly, though it may come into question why you are giving your exact location to begin with. I obscure all my observations now because it isn’t worth the risk to me. I see you do that now too, which is a shame when anybody feels pressured to do that but it just happens to be necessary sometimes.

I would say, do what you can to protect the location from here on out, and if the issue still is ongoing and you don’t know what else to do, contact the police. Or, police right away. It really depends on how you feel. It sounds dramatic but it’s definitely valid. I hope this all works out for you and I’m very sorry this is happening in the first place.

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I still think iNat needs to be more proactive. There are obs using the location function on cellphones with their actual street address. That should be obscured by iNat - unless it is a public park / botanical garden.
My garden obs are set to a pinned location, circling my suburb and centred on the Civic Centre. No street, no address.

Garden residents under observation - patio outside our kitchen door


Sounds like good reason to obscure where you live. Please use “obscure” rather than “private” so we identifiers can get a rough idea of where the organism was. That’s often really important for identification.

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