I'm looking for a word or phrase to describe wild animals that are not afraid of people.

I don't believe that tame fits, as it seems to be the opposite of wild. Domesticated doesn't fit either.

For a more specific example of the case in question:

The groundhogs and squirrels on campus are crazy! Sometimes they even let people pet them.

These animals would be called what?

  • Are you looking for something that applies only to human friendly creatures like the ones in your example, or should it apply to not so friendly ones like Baboons too? – Alan Gee Oct 15 '12 at 16:47
  • This is not really what you are looking for, but sometimes "feral" would seem to work. For example, you can speak of "feral" dogs roaming a slum. Such dogs are neither wild, tame, nor domesticated, but they are not necessarily afraid of people, either. (Interestingly, feral cats are fearful.) – Merk Oct 15 '12 at 20:09
  • Q: How do you catch a unique bird? A: Unique up on it. Q: How do you catch a tame bird? A: The tame way. – MT_Head Jul 28 '13 at 3:32

Habituated, past participle of habituate (“To turn into a habit, to make habitual”), is sometimes used. See, for example, the Habituation wikipedia article for examples of habituation in animals, such as “the response becomes habituated if the stimulus repeatedly occurs but causes no harm. An example of this is the prairie dog habituating to humans”.

Animalbehavioronline provides a similar example, remarking that prairie dogs “collectively ... are quite well-defended, as their alarm calls facilitate escape in burrows. When prairie dog towns are located near trails used by humans, giving alarm calls every time a person walks by is a waste of time and energy for the group. Habituation to humans is an important adaptation in this context.”

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  • Actually, what you are describing is called socialization. It can be "described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognize and interact with the species with which it cohabits. In the wild this is likely to be limited to the animal’s own species." Habituation is the process "whereby an animal becomes accustomed to nonthreatening environmental stimuli and learns to ignore them." For example, a baby bird may learn to ignore shadows overhead because the shadow is usually the result of a parent returning to the nest. – JLG Oct 16 '12 at 4:23
  • @JLG could socialization be described as a more specific form of habituation? – xdumaine Oct 16 '12 at 13:01
  • @roviuser, Maybe so. Habituation (or negative adaptation), per Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, is "the gradual adaptation to a stimulus or to the environment." If humans are part of the environment, I guess you could say that the animal becomes habituated to them. – JLG Oct 16 '12 at 14:57

The word friendly, would be suitable in this context.

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Is the word you're looking for 'sociable'?

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  • 2
    It's clearly habituated, as the first comment on the other answer explains. – Matt E. Эллен Mar 27 '13 at 16:31
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    @Matt, it's not "clearly" anything, really, since English is so rich in synonyms and other words with shades of nuance that to exclude all others would be premature. I could see "sociable" as a fitting word - maybe not the #1 best word - but I say let's welcome newcomers! :-) – Kristina Lopez Mar 27 '13 at 18:15
  • @KristinaLopez right, but the OP has marked the answer and said it was perfect. The word they were looking for clearly was habituated. – Matt E. Эллен Mar 27 '13 at 23:44

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