Don’t Feed the Gators
by Chris MacDonald
This sign is posted by a pond in Florida. A couple of things are interesting about it. First, most will find odd the idea of being tempted to harass a dangerous animal. “Harassing” a gator seems as obviously foolish as poking a lion. (And the word “harass” might itself seem off-base. Doesn’t harassment usually imply some sort of power imbalance in favour of the harasser? Can you harass someone or something that could eat you? Or are you merely antagonizing it? Dunno.)
Second, and more substantially, this is an example of a sign that is incomplete in an important, but perhaps unavoidable, way. The sign says not to feed the gators. But the sign doesn’t say not to feed the fish, which in turn might attract gators. I’m told that when this photo was taken, a father and son were merrily throwing bread to the fish in the pond, not realizing that a) the bread itself might attract the alligators’ attention, and that b) alligators eat fish (among other things), so that if you attract fish you’re pretty likely to thereby attract gators. But then a sign that said, “don’t feed or harass the alligators, or do anything else that is reasonably likely to attract their attention” would probably lose its impact.
A further thought: if you’re tempted to harass a gator, is it really likely that you’re going to be deterred by the fact that doing so is against the law?
There is no sign that can stop stupid, Chris.