Tips On Feeding Maine’s Vermin
Apparently, there’s no living creature so repulsive that some kind-hearted soul won’t feed it.
Except, possibly, Newt Gingrich.
In Rockland, a woman has been putting out food each day for the seagulls. She told the Bangor Daily News she buys fourteen or fifteen crates of bread each week for her avian friends, who would otherwise have to fend for themselves on a diet of dead things and trash.
With all the current attention being paid to healthy eating, it’s difficult to believe anybody would object to this charitable gesture. But the woman’s neighbors are a grim and close-minded cartel. They are apparently incapable of experiencing the joy that comes with having the air around your house filled with dozens of flying sea scavengers with extremely active lower digestive systems. They claim the assaults of aerial bowel clearing are making it impossible for them to enjoy their yards. Which, I feel obligated to point out, are already rife with worm poop, beetle poop, ant poop, and spider poop, not to mention the leavings of roaming cats, passing dogs and the occasional mouse.
But do they complain to the City Council about these threats to public health and safety? They do not. And why not? Because they are clearly prejudiced against seagulls.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you have only one life to live, and you’re wasting a precious part of it reading about bird droppings. Also, you’re thinking that ants and worms, being at ground level, don’t dump on your head and shoulders when they have to go. True. But that doesn’t account for beetles, which fly and are probably capable of both aviation and defecation at the same time. Spiders are known to build their webs well off the ground. Do you think they also build little flush toilets with little sewer lines running to the nearest septic system? And cats often get stuck in trees, where they have no access to litter boxes.
But are Rockland city councilors confronting any of these important issues? They are not. Instead, they’re considering an ordinance that makes it illegal to create a public nuisance by feeding seagulls.
This reminds me of the time in Portland when my neighbors decided to do something about the underfed rat population. Each day, they’d dump their garbage in the street, where the rodents would have easy access to it. Some of them also kept auxiliary supplies of rotting food in their kitchens, which proved to be a kindness to the rats whenever the weather was inclement.
As with the Rockland woman’s crusade for seagull nutrition, this effort was met with official hostility. Police and health inspectors descended on the friends of feral rats, much like a swarm of seagulls on a loaf of slightly stale bread. In short order, the campaign to upgrade rodent meals was shut down.
You’d have thought the poor little critters carried the Black Plague or something.
My advice to those of you moved to help those creatures with less popular appeal than cuddly puppies, playful goldfish and wacky legislators is to keep your crusade to aid them a secret.
In some cases, this is easy. To feed Lyme-disease-bearing ticks, for instance, you don’t have to create a big stir. Just stake a small child in a heavily vegetated field for a couple hours each day. Promise the little brat ice cream if he or she doesn’t cry and carry on. You should change kids every week or so, because they get anemic.
Likewise for black flies. If granny refuses to go to a nursing home, she’ll just have to help out by doing some volunteer work, serving as the luncheon special for the black fly blood bank. Suddenly Shady Acres Rest Home might not look so unappealing.
It gets trickier when it comes to bears. First of all, there are the gripes about pets and children being carried off into the woods. Then, there are the claims that you’re interfering with the natural order of things by encouraging Teddy and his family to stop by the local pig farm or day care center for supplemental nutrition. And finally, there’s the poop. Which, according to legend, is supposed to go in the woods, or the next thing you know, we’ve got a Protestant pope.
As you can see, seagulls are not alone in coming up on the short end of ending hunger in America. Nor are they the only bird that receives a less than enthusiastic welcome when they show up at the pantry door. Urban dwellers have been known to display similar signs of inhospitality toward pigeons and vultures. And in Portland Harbor, even the majestic osprey isn’t welcome.
It seems these two ospreys – I’ll call them “Ozzie” and “Harriet,” just to anthropomorphize them a little – built a nest on the end of Portland’s Ocean Gateway Terminal pier II. If the birds had laid eggs in that nest, which like all osprey nests looks like somebody dumped out a wheelbarrow full of yard debris, the pier would have been unusable until the little birds had hatched, learned to fly, learned to hunt and paid off their college loans. So, after consulting with environmental experts, the city had some workers pull the nest apart and put up barriers to prevent Ozzie and Harriet or any of their friends from returning.
While this may seem cruel and heartless, it should be noted that the now-homeless ospreys immediately qualified for general assistance and subsidized housing. When word of that reached the Blaine House, it prompted Gov. Paul LePage to threaten to veto the supplemental state budget scheduled to be approved by the Legislature next week, unless welfare rules were tightened up to exclude able-bodied birds of prey.
“Get off your perches and look for perch,” the governor warned the ospreys during a speech to the Republican state convention.
Delegates not only gave him a standing ovation, but also inserted a plank in the party platform calling for a statewide ban on the use of food stamps to feed seagulls.
Al Diamon says let them eat cake. And while you’re cutting it, he’ll take a thick slice, too. If there are other handouts, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.