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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peanuts in Our Parks... Can Butterflies Cause Hurricanes?

There is a theory that a butterfly can flap its wings in a rain forest and cause a hurricane a half a world away.

The thinking is that butterfly wings create tiny changes in the air around them. Those small changes produce a delicate chain reaction in the earth's atmosphere and can build into a powerful force thousands of miles from where the little butterfly flits innocently from flower to flower.

That theory has been tossed-around and questioned for fifty years or more; but what is not in dispute is that nature, without any help from humankind, creates its own highly sensitive system of balance.

I sometimes think about the balance of nature when I walk along St. Joe's Walkway in Palm Coast's Linear Park. Many walkers in the park have taken up the habit of bringing edible treats for the squirrels and other wildlife along the path. Some of them say it makes it easier for the squirrels to find food for a nestful of youngsters. Other's say they like to interact with the animals and it makes them feel closer to nature. I say, it disturbs a very sensitive balance of nature in ways my fellow walkers may not be thinking of.

There are dozens of reasons why humans shouldn't feed wildlife. I will mention only four of them.

  1. This practice causes wildlife to lose their fear of human beings. That is dangerous for both the animal and the human. Squirrels in the park routinely approach passersby for food. Innocent squirrels have been attacked by startled walkers who are unaware of the feeding practices and think the squirrels are overly aggressive and maybe even rabid.

  2. When young animals start to rely on human feeding they lose their natural instinct to forage for food on their own. Animals, much like humans, need a variety of food to stay healthy. If they feed solely on the processed food that humans bring to the park they will eventually get sick.

  3. When humans introduce food to the park it attracts more animals than normal to the area. More animals in a small area breed disease and create territorial conflicts within the animal population. I am not a scientist of any kind, but that kind of imbalance certainly cannot be good for beast or for mankind.
  4. The last reason I will offer is that the City of Palm Coast has deemed it unlawful to feed animals in city parks. I bet they had an even longer list of good reasons when they created that law.
I have no idea if butterflies can really create hurricanes, BUT IF THEY CAN; I wonder what a squirrel that has indigestion from eating salted peanuts does to mother nature's extremely delicate system of balance.

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