Policy on demonstrations of dangerous behavior?

What is the inat policy of photos that show dangerous behavior? I personally have no problem with people photographing animals in their hands, but sometimes those photos exhibit behavior which presents a threat to the person or the animal.
Here’s the post that made me wonder. - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/42615645

Does iNat have a policy about this?


Just a general note that we strive not to call out individuals in a negative way or use specific examples that could be perceived as negative in nature. No one wants to come into a discussion and see that their mistake was used as a talking point

In the example above, apparently this venomous snake was actually dead on arrival. To others - please don’t post specific examples where the observer was intentionally or unintentionally engaging in dangerous behavior. Instead, you can use the comments section on the observation or a direct message to politely engage with the user. You can also reach out directly to help@inaturalist.org in any cases where you’re unsure.

iNaturalist doesn’t have a policy that specifically addresses dangerous behavior, other than the generic “iNaturalist may, at its discretion, change or remove any content that it considers inappropriate or unlawful” in the Terms of Service (and to assume people mean well in the content they’re posting, from the Community Guidelines).

@sandboa since iNat can’t stop people from engaging in dangerous behavior, is the concern that showing images would encourage additional behavior, and to hide them somehow?


To go with this, it’s pretty much impossible to determine the back-story of photos on iNat unless the original person posts those as well.

It’s similarly difficult to determine the person’s level of familiarity knowledge of the animal (or plant!) in question.

It’s important to encourage responsible behavior that is safe for both the people and the wildlife, but it’s also important not to jump to conclusions.

If you see something that you think is questionable the first thing is probably to courteously ask the person about it, as there may be an important piece or two that you may not be aware of (as is the case with the example linked). Depending on the response then contacting people via the help@inaturalist.org address might be the next step.

Try talking with the original observer first, preferably in a private message so that the observation comment portion turn into a Reddit/Youtube-like comment chain here everyone argues without actually knowing what the backstory is.


The author said that the snake was dead even before you commented, so the case is closed.


Although if you find yourself in a similar position as the author, you might want to be proactive and inform people it’s already dead.


I expressed this same concern in another topic. However, as already mentioned above, the poster stated in the beginning the snake was deceased. It’s usually when no explanation is posted when I get concerned.


I just wanted to call out the original observer for being very gracious with some strong but well-intentioned criticism. Thanks, everybody, for trying to look out for each other. It’s a good reminder to all of us that some context can help other folks interpret what we’re sharing.


This could have been made clear - Dead - when the obs was put on iNat.
Then there would have been no issue to discuss.

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For what it’s worth, a dead venomous snake can still be dangerous to the handler even if handling in this manner poses no danger to the snake.

I’ve handled rattlesnakes, both live and dead, this way but don’t anymore. It’s not something I’d lecture anyone on but I also don’t encourage it.


I don’t think it is up to iNat or the poster of this question. How do you know what the observer’s expertise is with snakes?

I think people are allowed to apply their own common sense. If this snake were alive, I certainly wouldn’t handle it, as I am not an expert. But I have certainly watched plenty of tv shows through the years of people who handle snakes all the time.


I think @bouteloua’s answer summed things up very well. There isn’t a policy about demonstrations of (possibly) dangerous behavior, but we do reserve the right to remove content if necessary. I don’t think this example is worth taking down, and I think the observer graciously handled the situation, as @schizoform pointed out.

Yes, it would have been ideal for the observer to have mentioned that the snake was already dead and that he had experience with venomous snakes; however, the onus is also on all of us to assume others mean well and to ask questions. My recommendations for situations like this:

  • First, keep in mind that you may not know all of the details, so ask politely about the situation. If you find yourself getting emotional, take a moment away, and double-check what you’ve written before posting it. I try to do this as much as possible, but definitely also fail at it sometimes. But it’s always good to look something over before you post it.

  • If the behavior is dangerous or hurtful, don’t put the person down. Enlighten and teach them about why it’s not a good idea to engage in such behavior, and provide advice for what they might do in the future. The goal is not to make them feel bad - the behavior has already occurred - but to prevent future dangerous behavior.

  • If you’re very concerned, or are unable to respond in a way in which you’re comfortable, please email help@inaturalist.org and we’ll investigate.


Thanks for all the input. His original reply did NOT state that the snake was dead, that statement edited and added after I posted about research showing the danger to the snake of this sort of handling.

Furthermore, as someone with 50 years of experience with live (and dead) snakes, I have serious doubts that snake was dead. The position of the skull bones and fangs and the fact that there is some recently excreted venom running down the right maxilla indicate otherwise. I think that statement may have been added to diffuse the disagreement, which is a good thing, I guess, for the public perception even if it was a lie.

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If this is/was/could be the case and you or anyone has serious concerns about such an observation, now or in the future, I would highly suggest the immediate course of action to be:


But I’m sure you know that heads still can bite for some time after the cut.

Closing for the reasons in my initial response above.