Will people ever learn that encounters with wildlife are best left on the side of caution?
Give me a break! Please! I am so tired of viewing, reading about or hearing about the stupid antics of many people that act stupidly around wildlife.
Many of them are what I refer to as “bunny huggers,” or the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) bunch. They want everyone to be vegetarians.
However, a lot of the mindless acts around wildlife are simply chalked up to ignorance. And I can blame ignorance, but only up to a point. Then stupidity takes over, and anything (really bad) can happen.
Examples of this kind of idiotic behavior are so numerous that they are downright frightening. I have serious reservations about the future of our nation if a portion of the citizenry forgets (or isn‚Äôt taught) to employ at least some common sense. And I worry even more if the wildlife involved are blamed just for exercising their first nature.
Most recently (this past week), a guy found a mid-sized snapping turtle (looked to be about 10 pounds) “trapped” in some kind of culvert. He rescued it (close to its head) with his bare hands, which was dumb enough. But no, he wanted more, so he had a bystander video him and the turtle as he attempted to “kiss” it with an open-mouth kiss!
Any guesses on what happened next? When he got close enough that turtle reacted¬† exactly as its forefathers and foremothers had done for many millions of years. Quicker than you can blink an eye, that turtle bit him on his upper lip.
But our guy, let‚Äôs call him Mr. Stupid, is both lucky and very unlucky from this encounter. He is lucky because the turtle bit him and let go. Those critters are just as likely to bite and hold on (indefinitely). He is very unlucky because turtles almost always carry salmonella bacteria (and several other nasty diseases), and it is probable he is now infected.
Social media can be a good thing. It can also be a telling report on the stupidity of people.
One guy in Yellowstone National Park decided to “taunt” a bull bison that happened to be standing in the roadway. So he got out of his vehicle, approached the bull, and began shouting at it while waiving his arms. Talk about stupid!
Every year the park has visitors that run afoul of bison and end up getting gored. This guy was both lucky and unlucky.¬† He avoided the bull‚Äôs horns, which made him very lucky.
But the park service traced him to Glacier National Park where he was arrested and charged with harassing wildlife. Oh, and he has a past record of harassing dangerous wildlife, too. I guess it is too bad he apparently has never attempted to harass a momma grizzly with her cubs.
We cannot forget the numerous people who “train” black bears with quantities of food in order to make them docile around people. The “bear lady” who used to live in North Carolina fed bears with dog food for more than two years. Then one day she disappeared.
They found her body, or what was left of it, a few hundred yards behind her house. Fortunately, nobody blamed the bears.
Estes Park, Colorado, is world famous for its fall elk herds that often gather right in the center of that little village during the rut. People flock there by the tens of thousands just to see those elk in all there glory. There are numerous videos on the Internet.
And, as you might guess, there are also numerous unwanted interactions between the elk and humans.¬† I say unwanted because, while some of those conflicts may have started without the intent to get too close to various elk, most of them quickly turned into unwanted situations when the elk won.
You can blame it on too much alcohol or wacky tobacci, but the real cause is human stupidity. The power of a bull elk is simply incomparable to any human.
One of my biggest “pet” peeves involves people who have venomous reptiles as pets. In my opinion, nothing could be more dangerous. I remember my time as a federal wildlife agent when a directive would come in to check amateur herpetologists for violations of various federal laws.
I always carried two guns for those investigations, with one loaded only with “snake shot” cartridges. Needless to say, they were not fun investigations.
Some people just like to keep and handle deadly reptiles. One man in Pinconning Township, Michigan, had several deadly species in his home. And, at 12:09 a.m. on Sunday, July 15, he called police and asked for an ambulance. He had been bitten by his pet Monocled Cobra!
He was rushed to McLaren Bay Region hospital and then transferred to a hospital in Detroit. Six units of anti-venom were sent from Miami. It was not enough.
Even people who keep constrictor reptiles such as pythons or boas are not safe. Sooner or later, even after many years of handling (as the snakes grow ever larger), the reptiles will do something within their nature that will harm, possibly kill humans. It doesn‚Äôt matter if it is two young boys asleep in their bed or a woman who hand raised her python from 24 inches to 12 feet, the results often are death or severe injury.
I recently read about some people on a tour in Brazil who thought it would be really “cool” to take a swim in the Guyana river. After all, it was the home of pirana fish, and that added a measure of danger to their endeavor, right?
So they did go for a swim, and several got severely bitten by (are you ready for this?) pirana. You cannot chalk that one up to ignorance.
The remedy for most human ignorance is knowledge. Teach someone about the potential dangers of unsafely interacting with wildlife, either in the wild or after being “domesticated,” and you may just save a life or prevent serious bodily injury. It is as simple as that.
As for the stupid people among us, I‚Äôm afraid there is little hope. I guess that some people will never learn, at least until they have learned the hard way. And some may not learn even then.¬† Oh well.
Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger‚Äôs outdoor writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.