Beware of Tripping Alligators and Fake Warning Signs

Fake warning signThis sign warning “Do Not Feed Hallucinogens to Alligators” would be amusing if it were real, but it’s not.

Complicating life at, where we love to post interesting warning labels and signs, is the proliferation of fake, Photoshopped samples.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.  University of Memphis first-year law student George Scoville sent me the alligators picture.  It looked a bit sketchy.  Research led to a Reddit post detailing indicators that the picture is fake, including, for example, a Shutterstock watermark on the mushroom.

Real sign, but fake warningBut George had also sent a second similar photo: “Do Not Give the Bison Psychoactive Substances.”  This one looked real.

Determined not to be fooled twice, George, applying good legal research skills,  wrote to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (the bison are in Golden Gate Park), receiving a reply that explained:

“That sign was put up as a prank. We took it down as soon as we became aware of it.”

So the sign is (was) actually real.  Diabolical!  On the other hand, it is Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, home of “Hippie Hill” and neighboring Haight-Ashbury, so it’s possible a sincerely motivated animal-lover posted the sign.

Before posting anything on Facebook or otherwise, take a minute to check it out.  A quick check over at SNOPES will usually expose widely disseminated fake news, such as the recent viral Facebook post that Mark Zuckerberg was giving away $4.5 million to Facebook users who shared a thank you message.

In the meantime, signs or not, it’s not a good idea to give psychedelics to animals.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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