A man caught on video rescuing a small rabbit from a blazing wildfire in California was hailed as a hero Thursday—but not by everybody, including experts who say it's debatable whether the rabbit even needed saving in the first place. Torie Bosch at Slate says risking the flames to grab the bunny was "a stupid thing to do" and sharing the man's story, possibly inspiring others to similar acts of animal rescue, is "irresponsible." Tosch says the man could have required saving himself, endangering bystanders, or traumatized those bystanders by dying in his rescue attempt. And what now for the rescued rabbit? Just release it "so it can end up in another wildfire?" "Human lives need to take precedence over animal lives," Tosch writes. "Let the animals take care of themselves."
As callous as that sounds, it's a sentiment echoed by Live Science, which reports that wild animals as a rule know what they're doing when it comes to wildfires. A report from the US Forest Service found wildfires actually kill surprisingly few animals. Rabbits can survive fires by hiding out in their underground burrows, and those that aren't hiding or fleeing a fire—such as the one in the video—likely have a good reason for not doing so. Animals have been observed hanging around fires in the past in order to shepherd their young out of harm's way. "Fire is something animals have to deal with constantly," California Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira tells the San Francisco Chronicle. Tira is asking people to ignore a post being widely circulated on Facebook advising residents to leave buckets of water out for animals fleeing the fires. "Fire or no fire, just let the animals be," Tira says.