WARNING: The following blog post contains the tired cliche “when I was a boy” so anyone who rolls their eyes at nostalgic references to childhood should probably stop reading now.

When I was a boy back before the dawning of the “Stoned on Electronic Entertainment” age, my young world was defined by dogs and critters. All kinds of critters. Snakes. Lizards. Frogs. Rodents. Turtles. Salamanders. Tadpoles. You name it, and I caught it, because at one time that’s what boys were supposed to do.

But that was then, and this is now.

From the story in the New York Times
CHICAGO (AP) — Warning: young children should not keep hedgehogs as pets — or hamsters, baby chicks, lizards and turtles, for that matter — because of risks for disease. That’s according to the nation’s leading pediatricians’ group in a new report about dangers from exotic animals._

Now I know the story deals mainly with “exotic” pets like iguanas and such, but how many parents do you think will read it and decide it’s simply too dangerous to let their kids roam the woods because they might come in contact with some of these filthy, disease-ridden animals?

How much more bubble-wrapped from nature can we make our kids? The American Academy of Pediatrics may as well have issued a statement like “Warning: children who engage in traditional childhood activities may come in contact with substances like dirt, plants, trees, rocks, non-filtered air and non-bottled water. These substances are home to potentially hazardous organisms and children allowed to explore these areas are at an elevated risk of contracting serious illnesses such as curiosity, independence, self-confidence, physical fitness and an appreciation for nature.”

I absolutely believe critter-catching is an important early gateway into a lifetime of loving the outdoors. Today’s curious rock-flippers and log-turners are tomorrow’s hunters, anglers, hikers, campers, biologists and scientists, but more importantly, they’re tomorrow’s advocates. How can you care what happens to nature when your parents are too scared to let you experience it on your own?