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Grand Canyon park rangers: Don't feed wildlife, no matter how cute

Park rangers aren't too happy about a video gone viral that shows a tourist breaking the rules.

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. - Signs were scattered throughout the Grand Canyon National Park Thursday, warning humans not to feed wildlife, still it happens daily and park rangers aren’t too happy about a video gone viral starring a thirsty rodent, a tourist who broke the rules and a water bottle.

Paul Camps of Gloucester, England, said Thursday that he and his girlfriend didn’t see the signs warning against feeding wildlife during their trip to this natural wonder in late May.

“We were too busy looking at the Grand Canyon,” Camps said during an interview with 12 News via Facebook messenger video chat.

Camps did notice a squirrel at his feet, “and it was kind of like a toddler, where it had its arms up in the air,” he said.

The animal’s eyes followed their water bottle, “and his eyes kind of shifted with the bottle and my girlfriend noticed that he was potentially thirsty,” Camps said.

When Camps offered his bottle to the furry rodent, it took it with both paws, drinking every drop.

Camps caught it all on his phone, shared the video and it went viral.

Community Outreach Coordination with the Grand Canyon National Park, Ranger Vanessa Ceja-Cervantes agreed it looked cute, “but it is very detrimental to the wildlife because they lose that natural instinct and then they become dependent on the visitor for food and water,” Ceja-Cervantes said.

Still, it happens every day at the national park.

Tomasa Garcia of Texas almost fell victim to their adorable pleas.

“They looked hungry,” Garcia said, but then she saw the signs.

“It explained why not and so I thought, 'Well, that makes sense,' and so I’m glad I didn’t feed them,” Garcia said.

Sequoia Porter of Sacramento, Calif., said she and Skyler Hardy had squirrels trying to get their food Thursday morning.

“While we were taking a break and eating, a squirrel literally came up to Skyler’s backpack and tried to steal Fritos,” Porter said

“They’re trying to crawl into your backpack. That’s not good because they’re no longer afraid of you,” Hardy added.

Abbey, 11, and Emily, 9, Waun of Ohio, recalled another tourist giving a squirrel water earlier that day.

“There was a squirrel and somebody gave it a water bottle,” Abbey Waun said.

Emily Waun added, “the squirrel bit through the plastic and the squirrel probably ate the plastic and I thought that was bad for the squirrel.”

Ceja-Cervantes reminds tourists they’re also at risk. They can get bitten and even catch a disease.

“Their fleas are found to carry the plague,” Ceja-Cervantes said.

The park ranger said all this was avoidable if visitors kept a safe distance, offering the rule of thumb as a measuring tool.

“If you can cover the entire wild animal with your thumb, you’re at a safe distance,” Ceja-Cervantes said.

Violators can find themselves paying a $100 fine for bothering or feeding an animal.

Regardless, Camps said Thursday, as animal lovers, he and his girlfriend would do it all over again.

“We both said that we wouldn’t feed food to the animal, but I think water is a bit different because obviously being in the desert, it’s dry and hot and they don’t have as many water sources,” Camps said.

Camps said his video has received comments both in support and against his actions.

You can click here for tips on how to safely view wildlife at the Grand Canyon National Park.

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