September 28, 2003
Please don't feed the alligators
There are certain things in this life that you wouldn't think should require an external disincentive to keep people from doing them. Feeding wild alligators, for example.
Feed an alligator, face a fine.
That wasn't the case until this month.
At its public meeting the final week of August, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted regulations making it a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of as much as $500, to "intentionally feed a free-ranging alligator."
(There's some interesting stuff in this article about the recent history of gators in Texas, so take a moment and read through it.)
You know, I may be a lifelong city boy, but I don't think I've ever needed the TPWC or any other similar body to explain to me why leaving food out for gators was Not A Smart Thing To Do. While I, as a good liberal, generally applaud the government for taking action to protect unwary citizens from lurking dangers, I'm not sure that preventing future Darwin Award recipients from self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool in this fashion is necessarily a laudable objective. It's a quandary, I must admit.
UPDATE: As a couple of people note in the comments, the real problem is not protecting people from gators, it's protecting gators from people. There's only one way to deal with a gator that has no fear of people, and that's to kill it. Hunting gators is highly restricted in Texas, but killing one to protect oneself, one's livestock, or one's pet is permissible and happens regularly. So whether it takes common sense or the threat of a fine, don't feed the gators, OK?
Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 28, 2003 to The great state of Texas
Personally, I think this is an example of over-legislation in government. Although common sense should prevail when it comes to feeding your friendly, local alligator, I do support the right of every American to be stupid.
Besides, it makes for entertaining reading in the newspaper the next day. ;)
I have to agree with William on this one. Some people really are too stupid to contribute to the gene pool.
Like an acquaintance's late husband a few years ago who decided the "Don't swim - alligators" signs didn't apply to him. They did....
Does anyone else think of the old Far Side cartoon with the alligator balancing the chicken on its nose when they read this?
As a good liberal, you should think of the animals. Whilst we don't have an alligator problem here in Colorado, we have the same issue with bears. What fool, you would ask, would attract a 7 foot tall bear near their home, given that it can smell the food in your kitchen from half a mile away, rip a normal exterior door off its hinges and completely trash your house? But people STILL DO IT despite 8 million articles a year telling them that it is a BAD THING and warning them of the consequences, and once the bear has learnt that there are good pickings inside the house, it will do it again and again. The only solution after that is to kill the bear......
I am reminded of the court case some years back, wherein the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, to whom it awarded a huge amount of money, because the perfume manufacturer defendant had failed to include on the product label a specific warning against using the bottled contents as a substitute for a "scented candle."
First offense: fine up to $500
Second offense: the State amputates your one remaining arm.
I don't think many of us would lose too much sleep if someone got mauled for feeding a dangerous animal - we can all agree it seems like a stupid thing to do.
The problem is that it isn't the people who feed the alligators who get hurt. Alligators generally leave people alone, but when the animals are fed regularly, they come to expect food from people, and may attack those who don't provide it.
The danger is for the alligators to get fed in the first place, and that's why the fine is a good idea.
Back before 9-11 you could get on to the causeways at Cape Kennedy to watch shuttle launches. Gators hung out there and generally left everyone alone--except the dimwits who tried to feed them. My father and I watched some kid feeding the gator from about 5 feet away. My father is a gruff man, who turned and said..."hmmmmm...tasty morsel". Turned back and had another beer.
Some parents didn't seem to get that alligators are some of the fastest animals on the planet at short distances.
On a more serious note, yes I do feel bad for the alligators who lose their sense of fear.