Domestic mammals countability

Here’s a summary of domesticated species countability issues. Comments welcome 🙂


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29 Comments on “Domestic mammals countability”

  1. I agree with most of this, except for maybe the following:

    I would rule all humans as equally countable, and let the decision to count them rest with the person.

    Similarly, I would treat any house mouse as wild (well, unless it was white or of otherwise obvious laboratory origin). They are taking advantage human modified habitats, the same as starlings and house sparrows.

    Otherwise I really haven’t put that much thought behind countability of domestics/feral beyond the confines of North America. Although personally I don’t really feel comfortable counting any domestic cat/dog/cattle seen in the wild in this country, since I don’t really feel they are “wild enough”

    • vdinets Says:

      The problem with house mice is not being wild or not. The problem is that if they are split, most introduced populations will have to be considered hybrids. Now, countability of hybrids is an entirely different subject, also with widely differing opinions. One thing I forgot to mention is that all North American Gray Wolves (possibly except Mexican) apparently have dog genes, and are not countable under the strictest approach. It is actually possible that all wolves have some dog genes, except maybe those in places with no human presence until very recently, i. e. the northern Taimyr Peninsula, the northernmost parts of the Canadian Arctic and Northeast Greenland National Park.

      • I don’t necessarily see that as a huge issue; it’s virtually impossible to be sure that something you see in the wild is “pure” or doesn’t have some genes from some other source. If it looks and acts identical to, say a wolf, but it’s great great great grandad was a husky, its still a “wolf” for listing purposes.

        Although I do understand this can be an issue with introduced species. IIRC, the Spiny-tailed Iguanas at the Desert Zoo (probably got the zoo name wrong) are actually a hybrid swarm of two different species. Still have no clue how to deal with it. The Purple Swamphens down in South Florida might also be from multiple founding populations which may or may not be split down the line.

      • vdinets Says:

        In the case of house mice, they look and act pretty much the same, and you need DNA analysis to be sure. In Central Asia there is a bit of difference in appearance and habitat, but in non-native ranges there is too much variability.

  2. mattinidaho Says:

    This was a really interesting read. I have an interest in feral animals (beyond listing) so I enjoyed reading your perspective. I keep lists of species/subspecies seen for myself, not published and not for comparison, so that part doesn’t matter to me. But I think the blurry lines between domestic, feral, wild, etc are interesting from a natural history perspective. It could also make a great book.

    • vdinets Says:

      I actually wrote a book chapter on it once, but it is in Russian and very outdated (published in 1996, I think).

      • mattinidaho Says:

        By the way, are there any good books/articles/resources on the Carolina dog? Were they ever common? Any places where they still could exist?

      • vdinets Says:

        Not that I know of. Apparently they were never particularly common. The one I saw in 2007 was along the road that crosses Savannah River Site (South Carolina Hwy 125).

  3. Jean-Marc LERNOULD Says:

    10 reindeers have been introduced from Sweden on Kerguelen Islands in 1955-1956, on Ile Haute.
    In 1981 they escaped (swam) to Grande Terre and the population is now estimated about 4000.

    Source : Institut Polaire Français Paul-Emile Victor

  4. Farnborough John Says:

    The introduced reindeer on South Georgia are managed (culled) by the British Armed Forces (a welcome change from compo!) but I believe as part of a recent Government initiative on invasive species there is a plan to wipe them out: I don’t know if its been done yet.

    • vdinets Says:

      Would be great. They cause a lot of damage.

    • jasonwoolgar Says:

      Almost everywhere we exist has become vulnerable…..

      • vdinets Says:

        …but some places are more vulnerable than others. And South Georgia is one of them: it has never had any terrestrial mammals, and its unique flora has no adaptations to grazing.

      • jasonwoolgar Says:

        There are innumerable vulnerable ecosystems across the globe and our efforts to manage wildlife have been catastrophically unsuccessful in all of them. Wiping out an entire population of almost anything is never ‘great’, necessary perhaps in certain isolated cases, but certainly not great. The more we meddle, the more harm we do and continuously playing god in this manner is exactly why so many species are in such jeopardy and why so many regions are so vulnerable.

      • vdinets Says:

        If not removed completely, the reindeer population would need constant management, and would use any lapse in it to explode again. It costs insane amounts of money to do anything on South Georgia, and that money could be spent better than on maintaining a herd of feral reindeer where it doesn’t belong. Removing reindeer from islands where they’ve been introduced is not meddling, it’s restoration of a functional ecosystem.

      • jasonwoolgar Says:

        As I said previously Vladimir, necessary in some cases, but never great. It would have been great if the reindeer had not been introduced in the first place and I think you will find that is where the meddling occurred. To date over 4000 reindeers have been slaughtered and these are animals that have lived on South Georgia for over a century. They are not a collective entry in a scientific journal and while the view, a view that you appear to share, that wildlife can be managed in this way persists, we will continue to make the cataclysmic mistakes that have so damaged the very ecosystems that you purport to protect. Where exactly would you draw the line in terms of exterminating invasive species, as numerous extinctions have already occurred as a result and you would need to eradicate or displace millions of people in order to truly restore the vast majority of functional ecosystems?

      • vdinets Says:

        Of course, I would prefer that they didn’t get introduced there in the first place, and I’d rather see them sterilized or transferred back to Scandinavia than killed. But if there is no other practical option, I think eradicating them is better than letting them remain and reproduce. I don’t think there is any need to “draw a line” for eradications: whatever introduced species can be eradicated, should be, but, unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of introduced populations can be eradicated with available funds and without too much collateral damage.

  5. Jon Hall Says:

    Thanks – this is useful. I will await for more comments before adding these – or some of these – to the list (I hope to produce a full global list by the end of the year based on discussions and feedback). I think the decision on whether to tick or not to tick a particular sighting rests always with the individual. If it is acting wild and living wild in a self-sustaining population then – for me at least – it is wild even if I might prefer to see a Wild Cat than a wild Cat. However its surely a personal thing. But my main interest in the moment is on the taxonomic names suggested and how to actually refer to these species. I agree on most in your list. But I am not sure about a few of them including Cattle (Bos taurus according to IUCN and Duff& Lawson), Goat (C. hircus according to IUCN and Duff & Lawson) and Donkey (Equus assinus according to many) … incidentally there are some calls for Canis dingoensis to be a full species but I am not sure how well accepted this is

    • vdinets Says:

      As I said, the list does not comply with a few ICZN decisions. But ICZN has changed its rules on domestic species more than once. Technically, taurus has priority over primigenus, so auroch should be B. taurus primigenus for European ssp., and Nubian wild ass should be E. asinus africanus. With goats it’s less clear because domestic goat and European mouflon were described in the same edition of Systema Naturae.

  6. Don Roberson Says:

    Always entertaining to see Vladimir’s projects. As Jon says, though, this is a personal thing. For me, personally, I don’t count non-native or domesticated birds on my world life list of birds (now at 6000). So, personally, I won’t be counting domestic, feral, or introduced mammals on my world mammal list. Seeing wild mammals in their native habitat makes me happy. Thanks, Don Roberson

  7. Jurek Says:


    I don’t count any domestic or feral mammals, for the reasons I written in the thread ‘Towards a global mammal list’.

    For example, if you eg. count feral horses, donkeys or dogs, then it no longer makes any achievement to see wild takhi, Somali Wild Ass or Wolf, for they are the same species.

    Please feel free to read and comment on my rationale in the other thread.

    • vdinets Says:

      That’s a minority view, but logical. Of course, if you consider the dog to be a separate species, it changes things a bit.

      • Jurek Says:

        No modern authority considers a dog to be separate species from wolf, even if domestic mammals have sometimes different names.

        In any case it would be strange to consider one of white feral goats living wild in Scotland to be ‘equally genuine article’ as big-horned, colorful Wild Goats in the Middle East. Then it only follows not to include any domestics.

        Only controversy for me was not counting Mufflon. They are wild in apperance, behavior and game species for centuries in Europe, living apart from domestic and feral sheep. Only recent studies showed that they are not introduced Wild Sheep but feral neolithic domesticated sheep. So the logic must keep.

        I might renegade for species where wild form is extinct and ‘the best you can get’ are primitive domesticates: cattle and dromedary camels.

    • vdinets Says:

      Sorry, for some reason I can’t answer to your comment or see it in the discussion. Could you post it again?

    • vdinets Says:

      I do consider the dog a separate species, and I’m actually submitting a paper on it this week, so you can consider me an authority 🙂

      The problem is, whatever approach you choose, there will be a species for which it wouldn’t work. I don’t think you can be 100% consistent. For the purpose of comparing lists, I’d suggest ignoring all ferals except very modified, ancient ones (such as mouflon and dingo) and those with no remaining wild populations (such as both camels). I’ll post a suggested list here soon, so that everyone can comment.

  8. […] Whether, when and where we choose to tick feral domesticated species is a personal thing. Vladimir Dinets’s note and subsequent discussion was helpful on this. Though one can argue that domestic pigs,cats and donkeys are essentially […]

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