22 August 2007

News bites

Angry, biting squirrels are in the news, particularly if they involve children being on the receiving end.

In Oklahoma, one newspaper reports that an 8-year-old boy was bitten by a squirrel that broke its leg after falling from a tree near a pond. The boy, of course, reached out to touch the injured animal - a definite no-no for anyone of any age.

In Denver, Arapahoe County health officials report that a squirrel that had apparently bitten a 3-year-old boy (they don't say under what circumstances) was being tested for diseases. To the newspaper's credit, it reported correctly that squirrels are not considered carriers of rabies.

Still, the media seem to savor the image of an angry, indignant rodent, typically weighing no more than 2 pounds, unleashing the fury of its finely sharpened choppers on human flesh, the younger and more tender the flesh the better. Seems to me the old "Man Bites Dog" headline may well be replaced soon by "Squirrel Bites Child" or "Squirrel Bites (Fill in Appropriate Description of Victim, the more helpless the better)." It has some of the same odd appeal that was present in the story two decades ago about then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter being set upon by a so-called "attack rabbit" - another small, furry creature acting way out of character.

Combative prey animal stories are only a few degrees better than endless reams about the antics of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan but, seeing that we're almost in a presidential election year, can't we think of other issues to provoke the electorate?

No comments: