Saturday, May 07, 2011

Please Don't Feed the Animals

I read this story about a dumb kid getting bit by a zoo's leopard today and I just had to shake my head.

Zoo Leopard Attacks Boy Through Cage

Seven years old is old enough to know better. But he was still unsupervised, and that's on his school. What gets me though is the fuss afterwards. OK, yeah--it sucked for the kid, but it was his own fault. However, per the story, we've got grown adults claiming that they're traumatized, we've got crisis teams assembling to make sure that none of the other little kids have bad dreams, and I'm sure that every lawyer within a hundred miles is trying to find a way to cash in on this by suing the zoo, the school, and/or the leopard.

Come on...

A couple of decades ago, I was on a motorcycle trip across the country when I stopped into a zoo. It was the one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They had similar enclosures for their animals--cages with safety rails several feet back to keep people from actually getting close to the animals. Well me being about as bright as that kid and just as well supervised, I decided that a timber wolf in the enclosure wanted to play. I'd already managed to get him to run back and forth the width of his cage several times just by walking back and forth on the outside, and now he was sticking his nose through the bars. He obviously wanted some petting, just like the big, harmless doggy that he was. So I went over the safety rail, approached the bars, reached through, and began scratching the wolf behind the ears. And he was loving it! I did this for a minute and then the other wolf in the pen walked up.
"Oh, do you want some of this, too?" I reached over to pet that one and like a flash, it bit me. Lesson learned: A friendly wolf and a hungry wolf look a lot alike. Fortunately it just caught a little bit of my hand.

So now I had blood dripping from my hand, and I was starting to wonder if zoo wolves carried diseases. I made my way to the Information kiosk and got the attention of the staffer inside.

"I have two questions," I said. "And they're not necessarily related. Can I have a band-aid, and have these animals had all of their shots?"

So what do you think happened next? Crisis teams? Lawyers? Cash settlement offers?

Nah. I got a proper bandaging and a free tetanus shot, and then I got escorted to the parking lot and told that I should not hurry back.

No biggie...I've been thrown of of many better places than the Sioux Falls Zoo in my life. Point is, it never crossed my mind to seek counseling or file a lawsuit. It happened, it was my fault, and I survived. End of story. (Well almost. Because I didn't learn, I got bit again a couple of weeks later, this time by an otter in the Vancouver, BC zoo.) But how did we degrade as a society to the point where now instead of just smacking the stupid party on the head, we treat them and everyone else within fifty yards as if they are all victims of some massive and unprovoked shock trauma tragedy?



  1. You otter know better.

    Brigid, from the blackberry

  2. OK, I can understand recounting being bit by a wolf.

    The otter? And just two weeks after the wolf?

    I hope this is not a tripartite post in which we will next learn that you were bit by an enraged killer rabbit.

    Unless, of course, you are James Earl Carter...

  3. Sigh... idjits... take no responsibility, blame others, sue... in that order.

  4. The otters were in a sunken pool and we were all looking down at them over a rail directly above. I was trying to get a couple to come close so that some small relatives could get pictures of them so I was reaching down and snapping my fingers. My hand was still several feet above the water when an otter leaped up, completely clear of the water (who knew that they could do that?) and got a piece of my finger.

    But I'm not even going to tell the story about the moose now, or the two about the black bears.

    I admit it--I was raised a city kid and knew nothing about animals until I got out on my own. It took me a while to figure out that they're not all our friends.

  5. OK, put the wolverine down, kid and step away slowly...He is NOT your friend.

  6. Brigid,

    You otter be ashamed of that pun. :)

  7. Hey! B.! Tam! Stop this foolery right now! It leaves me otterly underwhelmed!