A few people have asked over the years whether there are any ‘ rules’ for mammal listing. I know that this is something that can provoke a heated debate among birders but I am not aware of any standard rules for mammal listers. But maybe it would be good to have a bit of an online conversation here to see if we can set up some standard guidelines for those who want them.
It is heresy I know, but I don’t think there is any great need for a standard. It hardly matters in the great scheme of things… and if you are satisfied that you saw something which should be added to your list then why not. Its a matter for you and your conscience to resolve and is certainly not worth arguing about! But in the interests of making comparisons between different lists I guess it is also good to have some standards.
So, here are the rules I use when deciding whether or not to include something on my list. Wold be grateful for comments, additions, corrections etc….
1. You have to see the mammal and positively identify it.
2. The mammal has to be alive when you saw it (even if it was dead by the time you identified it). So I don’t count things I have found squashed on the road. But I do count things I have seen scurry under the wheels of my car and that I have only ID’d after scraping them off the road.
3. Animals have to be living in the wild. This is far from clear cut however so there has to be some judgement here. Some things are clearly wild. Others are clearly not (farm animals, zoo animals etc). But there is a considerable grey area with animals in many national parks in Africa living behind a fence to keep them in, or in Australia living behind a fence to keep other things (like foxes and cats) out. If the animals were there before the fence, then there is a good case of counting them as wild I guess. If they were put inside after the fence was built then its trickier, but even then there can be a good argument for considering them as wild. For me I guess its the size of the enclosure, the authenticity of the ecosystem and the way the animals live etc that decides it as well as if the animals ought to be there naturally. Grateful for comments on this….
4. Feral/escapee animals can be counted as long as they are part of a self-sustaining breeding population. So camels in Australia count, but if the pet Donkey from next door escapes and you see it a week later it doesn’t.
5. Mammals you have trapped or bat detected count. Again people may disagree with this but for many species there is simply no way to identify them unless you catch them (there is often virtually no way of even getting a glimpse unless you trap them) and setting traps can be every bit as skillful and tiring as trying to see the animal running free. But, to count stuff from a trap you need to see the animal in the study site. So if a mate of yours catches a Gilbert’s Potoroo and brings it over to your house a few days later it doesn’t count. Bat detection can be pretty hit or miss to ID certain species. But if you see the bat while you are using the detector and are certain of your identification then that’s OK for me.
6. I also have homo sapien on my list. But only once I’d seen my son being born. I figure he was wild when he took his first breath, but then became domesticated. Unfortunately he still seems pretty feral 8 years later.
7. I don’t know of any gold standard list of species. I tend to use the IUCN redlist which seems pretty up to date and authoritative but its hard to keep up with changes.
OK – grateful for some comments