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by Abigail Van Buren

Teenager's Puppy Love Delivers a Painful Bite

DEAR ABBY: Would you please print this to educate your readers about something I witness every summer -- parents encouraging little kids to take native wildlife.

I watched a 6-year-old girl show off the two palm-sized baby turtles her dad had "given" her from the lake, and put them into a plastic container to take home. Abby, they were snapping turtles! Mom won't be pleased when those "pets" snap a finger.

Then there was the mom who thought it would be fun for her 7-year-old boy to play with a few frogs in their dry, dense, sun-drenched backyard. Within an hour, the amphibians had escaped and, best guess is, they died and became dehydrated, sun-dried critters or dog food.

Abby, not only is it illegal to take wildlife on a whim, but it's also selfish. At a time when we're already damaging our planet for our recreational pastimes, we need to be teaching our kids that living beings are not toys, but rather a valuable part of natural ecosystems. It's so much more fun to observe and learn from a turtle swimming free in the lake. Please urge parents to stop being so thoughtless, or they may end up with a ticket or a missing digit. -- WILDLIFE PRESERVER IN LAFAYETTE, COLO.

DEAR WILDLIFE PRESERVER: Well said. Children -- and too many adults -- act on impulse when they pick wild plants and flowers, or decide to "adopt" little feral creatures that are destined to die when taken from their natural habitat. Earth Day is April 22 -- that's Thursday -- and it offers a chance for all of us to do something positive for the planet. Many parents use it as an opportunity to bond with their children, and some schools offer credit to students who participate. (Hint, hint.)