Feral animals?

Hello all! I do have a question and I do not think it has been addressed yet on the site, so may as well be the first one to ask.

What do we do for records of feral animals, such as feral dogs and cats? They are wild, but they did originate from a domesticated species. Is it up to the original poster of the observation to decide either to or to not have the observation as research grade, or is there something else I'm missing?

Many thanks in advance

@jakob @lisa_bennett @loarie @ariel-shamir @apbbani @noam_givon

Posted by cliygh-and-mia cliygh-and-mia, December 16, 2017 16:21

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Interesting question. I would think if the observer included the feral status in the description it could be considered research - my two cents. Looking forward to additional comments.

Posted by ellendale almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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A good question, but a tricky one. For one, how do you know if an animal is feral, stray/abandoned, or a current pet (either escaped or an "outdoors" pet)? I see dogs and cats all over my neighborhood all the time, but it is impossible to know which they are, and I don't think if I started adding them as observations that it would add any valuable data to iNat. Also, think from the perspective of somebody adding IDs on iNat: will they be able to tell if the animal is wild or a loose pet?

I think this is an area where you have to use your best judgement. I get a little annoyed when I see users who are adding all of their pets and friends on iNat, but finding a terrier hanging out with a pack of coyotes in the middle of the forest would be interesting and valuable. Worst case scenario, if people don't think it belongs, you can discuss it with them in the comments.

Posted by nanofishology almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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I agree, I do think those are great points (Especially the last one), and in response to the first part, I really think it depends on what area you are in. For instance, when I lived in Aqaba, there was at least one pack of feral dogs, and many feral cats, which were also present in the northern capitol of Amman. They were easily identified as feral, as they were in a group, showed up in many different areas, and showed fear of humans, they would retreat and watch if people walked nearby to them. The cats were feral as well, as they were present in high numbers in both cities, occasionally bred and raised young (Me and my family watched a female raise young in the parking garage in Aqaba), and would often fight for what they deemed as their territories, and again, would flee if a human got to close. I believe that it is more common to see feral animals in countries or areas where it is poorer (And I'm not diving into what would be considered a poor country or area), as they tend to not have animal control, or an animal control that has many people working for it.

Perhaps we could create an observation field to mark the animal in question as feral or domestic? I do agree with the last section, and I think that could work out as well.

Posted by cliygh-and-mia almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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As someone who works with a regional organization to trap, neuter, return (TNR) feral cats, I would love to see a tracking system for feral cats and cat colonies.

But: I don't think that iNat is the right forum for that.

Besides the issues mentioned above, unless there were highly localized projects, publicized in other media, the data is likely to be much too diffuse to provide any real assistance to those searching for colonies to TNR. Our organization has a facebook army, and they love cats. I'm not sure you'd want us encouraging them all to create iNat accounts to track them, though!

Furthermore, the more accurate the public location data, the more risk there is to the cats from people who would do them harm by shooting, poison or lethal trapping. (Some people are just terrible.) Not to mention the colony caregivers, who often wish to remain anonymous and not have people dropping off additional unwanted pets or snooping around their properties with cameras.

Not that these concerns should be determining factors for iNat purposes, but they are definitely issues to consider.

Posted by kitty12 almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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Hmm, interesting read, I hadn't even thought of that until now. I do think you're right, at least for now in the terms of they don't need to be reported on a very public domain to constantly track them. I do think that an observation field would be appropriate, to mark the observation as feral. If the observer uploads an observation of a domestic animal (Dog, Cat, ect) it is required to be marked either feral or domestic, to keep observations with someone's Yorkshire terrier being marked as casual grade, but still keeps observations such as packs of feral dogs in other areas as research grade. I do look forward to seeing and responding to other people's ideas as well.

Posted by cliygh-and-mia almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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Even for actual wild animals, you run the risk of people doing identifications marking something as captive. I've had that happen a few times: I've found random plants growing in my yard, which I did not plant, and people have marked them as cultivated because they are species that people do cultivate. Problem is, they are also native plant species, and I do not cultivate them.

I did a quick search on iNat, and found that there are a few Research grade dog observations, and most of them are feral. One example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9157610
The default search terms filter for verifiable observations (research grade, not marked captive), and it seems people are pretty good at keeping obvious feral animals marked as wild--it's not a default for the species like it is for humans.

Posted by nanofishology almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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Hmm, that's interesting as well, especially the second paragraph. I did already know about most of the first bit, that was the main reason I made this blog post, to be sure there wasn't something I was missing, and if I was how I and others could correct the issue. This has been an interesting discussion, I will continue to await more responses.

Posted by cliygh-and-mia almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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So if "Casual" is the default for one of these species, as I believe it is for domestic rabbits, is there any way to override that for animals that are clearly escapees?

Posted by twillrichardson 11 months ago (Flag)

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