Should released pets that die quickly be casual?

I think it’s probably best to leave as casual. If it was released intentionally by a human in this location, that’s reason to make it casual. There’s no evidence that it was free-living for an extended period of time or it moved significantly from the last area that a human placed it. Poor guy.


Agreed (of course, my heart wants “research grade” for this poor wee one, but I knew captive/cultivated was the right choice).

We found them in the creek behind where we live, which is a highly populated residential area. It seemed like they were “stuck/scared” (if we hadn’t found them I think they would have just stayed there until they died or were predated), and when we went down with a bucket they crawled right in. While waiting for the person we had found who has experience with them, they seemed to be accustomed to people/were approaching us in the temporary tub we’d set up for them. Also, my spouse had seen someone the previous day down in the creek (like maybe 10 metres away from where we found this wee one), which is not normal (we’re usually the only nature nerds around here!) and thinks they had an emptied bag when they left. All that to say that it is highly unlikely that they’d been living in the creek for more than 24 hrs before we found them. I’m still glad we tried to help <3


Sounds like you did the best you could! I don’t think there was really anything else to do in this situation. The details you provided definitely support keeping this as captive.


Welcome to the forum.
The poor Axolotl (Aqualote). I worked a bit with an Indigenous group In Mexico City who were trying to reintroduce it to the only place it lives naturally - the canals making up the chinampas in Xocilmilco, DF. They are so polluted, and filled with introduced fish species that there are likely none left wild.


How sad - I really, really hate people who abandon pets of any kind. @errantlight thank you for trying to help the poor little fellow.

I usually fall on the “it’s wild unless it’s provable otherwise” side of the spectrum, but since you likely saw the person who left it, and it was so obviously distressed, I agree with captive.

However, if it had been a species that might have invasive potential in the area, I’d probably vote for it being marked wild - just to document that one was present, because you never know.


On the OP observation, there is a comment pointing out that “Site staff have clarified that escaped pets count as wild”, with a link to the thread with the clarification.

That decision seems right to me. An escaped pet is wild; a human didn’t put it where it is. It’s hard (maybe sometimes impossible?) to determine how long an escaped pet’s lifespan will be and what its chances of reproduction are, and observations like this on iNat could be a useful way to learn more about that. But even with a known fast death and no reproduction, it’s still (1) part of the ecosystem (it could be a vector for microbes, and its body will be consumed), and (2) subject to naturalists (at least amateur) wanting/needing to distinguish it from other wild organisms. It’s not always obvious what was a pet and what was not.

This animal didn’t move since releasing, as it was found at the same spot as where people were seen. It’s clearly a pet though, and its body won’t stay there, topic name should be changed probably to be more clear it’s about this case, if animals move from the place and die later, that would be wild.

I had decided to leave my original checkmark in the captive box for now, but am still open to removing it - I think for me my main concern is not whether or not our encounter with this animal fits into one of our contrived definitions of “wild vs captive” (based on my also personally biased/assumption filled narrative of it!), but that the information about the observation be readily available/accessible to whoever may want it. (I mean, noone may actually be interested in this specific observation, thinking generally about these “grey area” encounters)

I’m wondering if it’s how I’ve presented the observation that is complicating whether or not we would consider it wild (i.e. I’ve made assumptions about how long it had been there/who, when, and where the animal was released - if it was even released at all - and my own opinion of the state of stress the animal was in)

Sure, it didn’t move from the spot, and people were seen at the spot… but that spot is in the wild.

It’s clearly a pet… to salamander enthusiasts, but not so clear to everyone else. I would guess it’s a small minority of iNat users (one that doesn’t include myself) who would know confidently that this was an escaped pet upon encountering it. If I found something like that, I might be grateful for photos of escaped axolotls to appear on my iNat search along with native salamanders.

Its body won’t stay there… after two days. Presumably it was eating things and shedding microbes and conceivably it could have laid eggs. It’s easy to dismiss this as a one-off, a negligible part of the ecosystem, but that depends on prior knowledge/assumptions on axolotl release frequency.

I admit there’s always going to be a grey area. What if a dog runs out of the house, across the street, where it gets photographed for iNat, and back, in the space of a few seconds, the owner yelling for it the whole time? Wasn’t it technically an escaped pet, therefore to be considered “wild”? I can’t answer that one, but I think the axolotl was in a wild enough location, for a long enough time, and is unrecognizable enough as a pet, that it falls on the wild side.

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It doesn’t matter, e.g. it’s discussed in previous topics about that and in guidelines, if organism doesn’t move, it’s the spot humans intended it to be, so it’s not wild.

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Yeah, the guidelines do imply (without directly stating it) that the axolotl shouldn’t be called wild… But @tiwane (iNat staff) indicated it should be called wild in the linked thread. And even if there was a totally clear and consistent directive from iNat, and even if it was set it stone, it would still be an interesting issue to discuss!

But he said it about a specimen from not established population, moving and ok, not a half-dead amphibia that was not so slowly dying there, escaped pets that will most likely die are wild (e.g. escaped parrots), but this poor guy stayed at one spot, so didn’t show his will to live there even more some time.

It’s not entirely clear to me why moving vs. unmoving, or healthy vs. dying, should contribute to our treatment of an organism as wild vs. captive.

Spot where humans put an organism is where this organism is still captive.

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I think this is the key right here.
A plant that was planted by a person is still “captive” even if that person then left and provided no further care, because it’s exactly where it was put and it does not move.

If the plant begins to send out shoots and runners and spread away from the spot, then those become wild.

A dying dog dumped on a roadside, which perishes without moving from the spot, would be captive, but if that same dog went running across some fields, ended up in a completely new location, and then got hit by a car, it’ll be considered wild.

“Has it left the spot it was obviously intended to be” seems like a good metric to follow to me.

If the axolotl had just been found there, in the stream, with no indication of how it got there, I’d probably call it wild, but since someone was seen placing it there, captive seems reasonable.

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Hmm, I see what you mean. The guidelines are clear that the distinction is about whether it was humans’ or the organism’s “choice” to be at its location, and that a tree planted 100 years ago is captive because it was there due to human choice. So why would a dying axolotl at one spot be any different?

My first thought is that it’s because axolotls can move but trees can’t. It may have moved just a few inches but it’s still the axolotl’s choice to be in the exact spot it’s in.

My second thought is that that’s a silly, unimportant distinction, and I still agree with you that the guidelines imply the axolotl is captive. I’m realizing the “choice” premise alone isn’t how I would distinguish wild from captive. I feel like human-planted trees in an overall-wild forest are totally appropriate for iNat, and obviously the same for human-seeded plants in other habitats. The rest of the “captive” examples are obviously captive because the locations are obviously human-curated, as well as the organisms being obviously human-placed. A zoo, a garden, a display case, a home.

My third thought is that I’ve been conflating “appropriate for iNat” with “to be called wild on iNat”. Captive/cultivated observations are still allowed and can still be searched for. Calling any organism in a wild location “wild” would have some annoying results, like chicken bones humans discarded everywhere being wild chickens. I’m not sure anymore that the line should be drawn so the axolotl is wild.

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I’m loving this discussion! Can’t write more right now but just wanted to clarify that we didn’t actually see someone release it into the creek, we made an assumption based on what my spouse thinks they saw (someone in the creek, who possibly had an empty bag when they left).


Just to be clear, there are no (as far as I know) any wild Aqualote. Anything we see is from captive stock. They are very commonly used as research animals, and pets. I don’t think any of them actually breed in the wild outside of Xochimilco. If people know otherwise, I would be interested to hear about it.


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