Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Please Don't Feed the Animals!

Wildlife should be left wild.

We were camping near Ft. Meyers Beach and a beautiful Snowy Egret landed near our camper.  Wow!  Wildlife up close!  I had never seen one this close before!  What a beautiful graceful bird!  Neat!

The bird walked closer, and I sat motionless.  Shhhh!  Look!  An Egret!  Had it not seen me?

It had.  And it was hungry.   And for the rest of our stay, this bird literally harassed us, trying to pick through the garbage, eat food off our picnic table and even pulling a hamburger off the grill!

Some well-meaning idiot who was there before us no doubt thought it was funny or "cool" to feed this bird, and over time, they tamed it to the point where it could be hand-fed.

Bad idea.  On several grounds.

First, it is bad for the bird.   Now tamed and dependent on humans for food, it no longer fished or hunted on its own.   And human foods may not be the best thing for its digestive tract (heck, half the stuff we eat is bad for us!).

Second, wild animals, once fed this way, will harass humans, as this bird did, making life difficult.   They will steal anything not nailed down, break into trash cans, and spread garbage all over the place.

And it doesn't end with birds.   People do this with gulls, squirrels, deer - and even bears.   Usually with horrific results.

I was at an outdoor restaurant once, and some idiot was there with his kid.   And the Dad says, "Oh, look at the Seagull!  Why don't you feed him a french fry, sweetie?"

And I said, "Please don't do that!"  And he replies, "Fuck you, buddy, it's my french fry!"

To which I said, "Well, yea, but I don't like seagull shit in my food!"

So little Bubbalina is holding out a french fry and the seagull snaps it out of her hand, biting the kid in the process (lesson learned - a finger and a french fry look the same to a gull).

And within minutes, the outdoor restaurant is swarmed with a flock of thirty or forty voracious seagulls, swooping down over diner's heads, dropping poop-bombs, even landing on tables and snatching food.   Diners run into the restaurant, covering their food.  It is like a scene from "the Birds".

And all it takes is one jackass to do this, before the local bird population realizes where the free handouts are - and starts making regular dive-bombs on customers.

We were in Montauk, Long Island at a Lobster Roll place with a large outdoor seating area.  A Japanese couple was there, and bought a Lobster Roll.   So of course, the husband had to take a picture, with the wife holding up the roll in front of the sign.   A huge seagull, with a six-foot wingspan, flew down under the cafe umbrellas, skimmed over the diners, missing each umbrella pole, and neatly snapped the lobster roll from the screaming Japanese girl.

This is the end result of hand-feeding gulls.  Bad. Bad. Bad.

Squirrels are the same way.  "Oh, how cute, let's give Binky the Squirrel a french fry!" and before you know it, a flea and tick-infested squirrel is sitting on your table.  Not cool.  Or the squirrel is gnawing through your garbage can.   And once well-fed, he breeds and makes more squirrels, to the point where the place gets over-run.

At a local eatery in Ft. Lauderdale, at the State Park, idiots started feeding the birds and squirrels, and it wasn't long before they had a major raccoon problem.  Fat 50-lb racoons would waddle up from under the deck and just take food off the table, leaving families running for cover and little girls shrieking.

Raccoons carry rabies, and if you see one approach you in the daytime, it is not a good thing, trust me.

Here on the island, we have a deer problem, and some idiots feed the deer in their backyards.   One local is leading the "save the deer" protest, as there are plans afoot to cull the population through controlled hunting.  "We don't want a slaughter of deer!" they say, oblivious to the fact that some in their number have already killed deer - with their cars!   Apparently it is OK to run them down, but not to hunt them.  Hypocrisy lives.

Deer carry deer ticks - and attract deer flies.  Guess what we now have in great abundance?  Yea.  Fun.  I always wanted Lime disease.

And it is not just the protesters who are running down the deer.  Even though our speed limit is only 35 mph, people do break it (like some protesters) and hit the deer.  BAM!  It usually kills the deer, or worse, wounds it horribly so it crawls off to die somewhere.   But it also will total your car.  And in some instances, it can kill you if it comes through the windshield, or if you are riding a motorcycle or scooter.

But hey, that's OK.  Just don't manage the population by hunting them, because that would be cruel!

No really, college-educated people believe this:  OK to hit with car, not OK to hit with arrow.

Let wild animals be wild.   Trying to make pets out of them is a really bad idea for everyone involved.   Having wild birds, squirrels, or other rodents walking across your dinner plate at an outdoor cafe isn't cute or fun or spectacular, it is just unsanitary, unsafe, and in the long run, bad for the animals.

Feeding wild deer isn't helping them, it is just making them dependent on you - and turning a wild animal into livestock.  And when you feed wild animals, they reproduce and before long, you have a major wild animal problem - well, a tame wild animal problem, as they come to you for food, as the ecosystem can no longer support their caloric intake requirements.

At that point, it is too late to stop feeding them, as they would starve and die.   Talk about cruelty!

Of course, there are some folks out there who are real Darwin Award candidates, and will do stupid things like try to feed bears and the like.   Really, really bad idea.  But fortunately, usually these idiots get what they deserve.  Leave the freaking bears alone!

It seems like a pretty simple thing - you feed seagulls, you will be covered with them in short order.  And once you leave, they are now trained to follow people and harass them for food.

But a lot of idiots don't get it - they think it is somehow "interacting with nature" to try to tame it and feed it french fries.   It is not.    You are not being "eco-friendly" by feeding wildlife - in fact, quite the opposite.
If you really love birds, get a pair of binoculars and watch them in the wild - being wild birds.   If you want a tame bird, get a parrot.   But please, don't try taming the wildlife by feeding it.

Because I don't like seagull shit in my food!

* * * 

Note: Gulls can congregate in places, like on rooftops, and really poop up a storm.   This is a very dangerous biohazard for people, even if it makes great fertilizer.

You can keep flying birds away from your boat, house, car, or restaurant by stringing some fishing line between a few trees, or on poles mounted on the ground or on your roof.   If you run enough line, it will discourage them from lighting or landing or flying through the area.