During the warmer months of the year, I spend quite a lot of time walking and riding my bike on the path in the forest preserve near my house. I’ve been frequenting this preserve for more than a decade now, and until quite recently, feral shopping carts were a pretty rare sight there. Sure, I saw a few over the years, but I certainly didn’t consider them a problem.
A little over a month ago, I spotted this cart. Having seen feral shopping carts in the past, I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it normally, but it’s bright orange color and the fact that it was flipped on it’s end made it stand out to me. My initial impulse was to help it by setting it on its wheels, but I know better than to get too close to a feral cart. They have been known to ram and scratch and are notorious for spreading disease.
A week or so later, I spotted another cart, and then another just a few days later. Before I knew it, just over a month had passed, and I had seen seven feral shopping carts in that time. I can’t say for certain that each sighting involved a different cart, but there were at least four of them–I know this because of their distinct markings. I could no longer deny that feral shopping carts were becoming a problem in my neighborhood forest preserve.
In an effort to curb this growing problem and prevent similar issues in other areas, I feel compelled to offer the following tips on how to avoid contributing to the problem.
- Do your part to keep carts from going stray. If you use shopping carts provided by retailers, return them to the proper places after you have finished your shopping. Proper places include depositories within stores (usually placed near the exits/entrances) and conveniently placed corrals in parking lots. Do not leave your carts free to roam in parking lots, as this increases the likelihood of their escape. Besides, only sociopaths abandon their carts uncorraled.
- Do not set shopping carts “free.” You may think that by taking a cart out of a store or parking lot, you are opening it up to a glorious and free life, but that’s not the case. Most carts have spent their entire lives in captivity and have not developed the skills necessary to fend for themselves. Sadly, some carts have been altered by store owners who aim to slow shoppers down in efforts to increase the time (and thus money) they spend in stores. Such alterations further hinder carts’ survival in the wild.
- Resist the impulse to acquire your own cart. Think carefully before bringing a shopping cart into your home. Sure, shopping carts are cute and fun, especially when they are young, but remember that they require care and commitment. The sad fact is that many shopping carts acquired on impulse end up being neglected. Often, these carts run away or are “set free” from their neglectful homes and must survive in the wild (see above for more on this) .
You may be wondering if there are trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs for shopping carts (as there are for feral cats in some communities). Unfortunately, at the present time, it’s not possible to spay or neuter shopping carts as they have no discernible genitalia. In fact, although shopping carts hav long been reproduced in laboratories, scientists remain mystified as to how they breed in the wild. Thus, the best defense against an out-of-control shopping cart population lies in not letting the carts get out in the first place.
We can solve this problem if we all do our part!