Survey about criteria for wild/captive observations

We now have 51 responses. The average scores for the different criteria are below:

0 = Not important, 1 = Slightly important, 2 = Somewhat important, 3 = Fairly important, 4 = Extremely important

2.65 Organism was produced (born/germinated) under human control
2.47 Population receives care or cultivation from humans
2.36 Specific organism introduced by humans
2.33 The organism’s exact location (within 1 mile) is determined by humans
2.33 Dependent on humans for survival
2.24 Enclosed in a fenced area smaller than its natural territory
2.16 Privately owned (e.g. by a ranch)
2.14 Movement intentionally restricted by humans
1.98 Population managed by humans
1.92 Behavior restricted by humans (mating, predation, etc.)
1.82 Enclosed in a fenced area
1.37 Movement restricted by humans
1.33 Population is intended to be hunted or harvested
1.27 Fed by humans
1.12 The organism’s general location (within 100 miles) is determined by humans
0.69 Population recently introduced by humans (within past century)
0.67 Population introduced by humans

Some take-aways:

There seems to be rough consensus that if a specific organism was introduced to a location by humans, that’s a good indication that it may be captive/not wild. However, this should not automatically apply to its offspring (see bottom 2 criteria). This fits well with existing iNat official guidance.

Being fed by humans isn’t a good criteria, but receiving care or cultivation from humans, or being dependent on humans for survival, is.

Criteria about restriction to a particular area are only useful if that area is relatively small (or smaller than the organism’s natural territory). For example, just because Kruger National Park in South Africa has a fence around it, doesn’t mean the animals should be considered captive/not wild.

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This actually lends support to my claim that nothing is truly wild anymore. Maybe not “nothing,” but a lot of what we think of as wild. If bluebird conservationists stopped removing house sparrows from the bluebird nest boxes, or if they stopped putting up nest boxes at all, would there still be bluebirds? Some may disagree, but to me, this means bluebirds are not really wild anymore.

Or you could take the argument the other direction. Everything is wild, including humans. Organisms don’t seek out specialized habitats based on where they’ve thrived before. They seek to live now, wherever that may be, using whatever abilities they have.


i think ‘wild’ is at its roots a flawed colonial concept. We aren’t some contaminating force as a species, or don’t have to be. It’s that certain cultural modes are contaminative. Species all depend on each other. Is a heron not wild because it requires beavers to flood forest to create big dead tree stands for their rookeries? Nothing is truly independent of other organisms, including humans. Maybe it is time to get rid of the world ‘wild’ in this context entirely

I am not saying remove the iNat tag. It is very helpful to know whether a human put an organism somewhere or not. Maybe just reword the label: “Is it here because a human put it here”


I think another take-away is that none of the numbers go up to 3, which tells me, in general, people don’t care too much about the specifics.

For me, if it’s in a house, or a pot (and doesn’t grow in the area naturally), I assume it’s captive. Beyond that, I give the uploader the benefit of the doubt and mention it, but don’t really make a big fuss about it.

Everybody does have different views and opinions on what makes something captive, but these results indicate to me that nobody is very committed to any of the specifics given.

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If something being dependent on the care of humans is automatically captive, then there are no wild Purple Martins.