13 April 2009
Please don't feed the squirrels?
A recent Associated Press story reports that the state of Wisconsin is asking visitors to stop feeding squirrels at the state Capitol because children visiting the area may have peanut allergies and this puts them at risk.
Please stop now, say the officials in Madison. Please stop so that schoolkids visiting the state buildings on classroom tours don't have an allergic reaction that could kill them.
Allergies are pretty serious matters. Children and adults can die from such reactions. And the warning is definitely well-intentioned but, I fear, it is off the mark.
First of all, people should indeed stop feeding the squirrels peanuts.
Peanuts are NOT a natural food for squirrels anyway - any more than Cheez-Doodles or Pop Tarts are a "natural" food for humans. Just because a creature likes a snack doesn't mean they need to make a steady diet of it. If people insist on feeding the squirrels, a handful of walnuts will do.
But better still, feed the squirrels something more helpful: a healthy dose of wariness of humans. Why encourage friendliness in wild animals by feeding them? The humans could risk an inadvertent chomp on the hand.
And the squirrels face an even worse fate: they begin to trust humans. Especially near a government building, is this kind of trust a safe thing? These innocent squirrels are milling about in close proximity to politicians.
Picture a state lawmaker luring a squirrel over with a juicy nut, and then handing the poor creature some campaign literature! If squirrels eventually get the vote, no one in Wisconsin will ever be able to unseat their state legislator even if they wanted to! The squirrels would outvote them!
Think about it, folks! Keep squirrels wild, for democracy's sake!