The Minnesota policeman who freed a baby skunk trapped in a yogurt cup is now a viral hero. But there are dozens of YouTube clips showing woodland creatures in need of rescue.
The clips are often labeled "awesome" or "funny, " but the fate of animals that wander off into traffic or back into the woods, is anything but funny.
"The skunk that doesn't get found dies a horrible death.
They suffocate because there's not much air in those cups. They may get hit by cars when they run across roadways," says Laura Simon of the Humane Society's Urban Wildlife Program.
Simon says even those that can avoid traffic will eventually die of thirst and starvation.
Skunks and squirrels aren't the only animals to get trapped and yogurt cups aren't the only containers that trap them.
But the Yoplait container seems to be unusually dangerous. The opening is narrower at the top than at the bottom and there's a ridge on the inside that makes it easier for the animals head to get stuck. The leftover yogurt inside is the bait. The container becomes the trap.
Wildlife advocates like Laura Simon have been trying for decades to get General Mills, the maker of Yoplait to redesign the container. When I requested a comment today, they referred me to small print that reads, "Protect wildlife. Crush cup before disposal."
Simon doesn't think many consumers will notice, much less act on that message. Changing the shape of the cup she says the answer.
"If only that Yoplait container design can be changed, it would save thousands of skunks and other wild animals" said Simon. Consumers have an option. Most other yogurt products come in containers that have a wider opening and pose less risk to wildlife.