Wildlife Sightings: Share or Stay Quiet?

but this is kind of my point. it’s almost always in a ‘not in an iNat context’. I think peoples the most important things DO get obscured, and because iNat has more awareness than other social media, poachers actually go to other places more frequently. I think it’s absolutely best to obscure when you feel something might be at risk, or for a variety of other reasons (private land and landowner doesn’t explicitly want it public, etc) but i think with iNat’s current system, the benefit of posting most things far outweighs the risk. That being said there are a few herps i will absolutely never post if i see them, and it’s worth talking about it, so long as we don’t end up in the fear mongering realm.


I find the idea of not posting at all when it is a rare species somewhat odd, don’t we want to document the ranges of rare species? If the obscured location is still too specific, you could not obscure but use an accuracy radius larger than the obscuration box (and don’t put the central point right on the actual spot), so you could still document the general range of rare species, without leading poachers to specific habitats. I once had a completely legitimate observation with a 200km accuracy radius, because I couldn’t remember which rest area on I-80 the ant nest was (I’ve since found the spot on google earth and narrowed it to 42m) so I don’t see what is wrong with intentionally making the radius large to discourage poachers (not saying it needs to be 200km)

I do agree with the idea that obscuration boxes can be too specific, I remember a white shark obs where the obscuration box was 99% on land, with only a tiny corner of water, so I knew exactly where that shark was, I just question the idea that we have to choose between obscure or not post at all

EDIT: This won’t work with rare species that are automatically obscured, which is probably most of the really sensitive ones, as this will cause it to still show the box, but potentially in the wrong location, there needs to be a way to choose less precision than the obscuration box, but this functionality does not exist currently


There are cases where something is found meaningful out of range, enough that even a very large range ring will provide useful info, but I agree that telling the local wildlife specialists should be enough to document it

I hadn’t thought of the issue of identifying the the location from the background, because I do mostly macro photography and usually upload images with useless backgrounds, for example the field of view from edge to edge of the last picture I put up was about 5 mm https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/184925266

And when I do have a picture looking horizontally out at scenery, the background is usually completely out of focus https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/182541108 (because of the small depth of field in macro photography)

But with something like a snake in a tree where you can see the tree and more than a centimeter of the surroundings I can totally see how there would be an issue

iNaturalist in Canada, which is administered through the Canadian Wildlife Federation went through the process with federal species at risk here (same as US ESA legislation) to review and identify species at risk that needed automatic obscuring. It was mostly plants which have or could be the target of collectors. As local govt staff coordinating community science and conservation efforts in my municipality, iNaturalist has been an essential resource for identifying the occurrence and distribution of various indicator species, as well as species at risk. But I see the value in obscuring some of those occurrences for various reasons including disturbance sensitivity, illegal pet trade etc. It’s easy enough to contact the observer to find out where the species they have obscured is located.


i am aware of a few ‘herp guys’ like this and they readily share their data with anyone they consider ‘in group’ including anyone with any affiliation with research organizations. I think if anything it hides the existing of poaching, which still happens via these groups.


Most of my observations are flora not fauna. But even so, my geoprivacy is based on location not species. I don’t want to publicize my hideaways, especially if it might create a traffic situation where authorities have to protect the area by prohibiting access. I’d be shooting myself in the foot. So some of my locations are obscured or private, and maybe that’s unhelpful to researchers. But if the govt were to directly ask about some notable observation, I’d divulge… under the condition my access would be preserved. :)

1 Like

In my area, a flamingo showed up last week and they aren’t normally here. Pictures were rapidly flooding social media as people were asking where it was. It would leave the area, but people were kind of relaying its movements so others could go see it. You had to feel sorry for the poor thing, way off course and being hounded.


I’m new here but this is a question I’ve been asking myself. I’ve used a game camera to capture some pretty interesting wildlife. I live in a northern state where hunting and trapping are legal and this was on public land (although close to a public road and some scattered private parcels). I don’t see geolocation data in the camera’s metadata but a determined person could probably dig deeper than I. These are not rare species but like others who have commented, I want to document their occurrence without putting them in danger. Some photos were taken several years ago but some of those wildlife are residents. I guess I could put the location in the general area several miles away but does that negate the observations’ value? Thank you for your help.

1 Like

Obscured data does reduce usefulness for some, though not all, applications. If the camera doesn’t have GPS, then there won’t be location metadata in it (many game cameras don’t as it drains battery and they are stationary).

If you really want something to stay private, you shouldn’t upload at all, but I think that for this situation, obscuring is probably reasonable. You can also look and see if there are already other observations in the area - if so, then a few more won’t matter.

If you do enter a location that is deliberately off, you will need to increase the accuracy circle of the observation to encompass the true location. This is a sort of “manual” obscuration. It might be worth it if you can put the deliberately different location pin <1 km from the true location. However, for distances higher than that, I would probably just use iNat’s obscuration function.


If it would be something like nesting birds - you can upload MUCH later. Then your obs data will be accurate, but the immediate risk to wildlife will have passed.

Even on my old blog I uploaded the last - after fire orchids! - picture, years later because of poachers. I have since seen the same species on our local mountain.

which kind of calls into question how useful obscuring is? God knows I’ve used iNat to help figure out what areas to target.

I suspect in many cases for herps delaying post for a few days to a week is probably pretty useful given how weather dependent a lot of their activity seem to be if you’re worried about it. For instance, if you need to be told that Ft. Davis has gray banded kingsnakes around it, you’re not competent enough to be a threat. But if there’s a lot of surface activity and you post pictures of a lot of leps and alterna that day, I can easily see a poacher that keeps on eye out noticing that and driving down to get while the getting’s good.

I mostly go into very public areas (city parks, WMAs, state parks) where everyone already knows these animals exist so I’m not generally too worried about it in practice. But if I was herping less well known areas? Oh yeah, obscure away. And I’ll never post a den site for any Crotalus.

I have to think long and hard about this. Most of these animals are residents and breed in the area and some may have large home ranges. So even though my trail cam pics are from 2 years ago, hunters or trappers familiar with their behavior could still target them. On the other hand, those people could do that anyway if they saw animals or tracks near the public road, so maybe my concern is overblown?

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.