Annual reminder: Leave baby wildlife alone

The sight of a young wild animal "alone" can tug at the heartstrings, but you should not interfere or "rescue" the animal. (Submitted photo/CPW)

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reissuing an annual reminder to leave young wildlife alone and to inform CPW local offices when an injured wild animal is seen.

Each year, people who find young animals mistakenly believe they have been abandoned, so they have “rescued” them. Although reports are made with good intentions, people routinely orphan young wildlife by essentially kidnapping them and bringing them to CPW offices.

Deer, elk and pronghorn mothers hide their young for long periods of time while foraging. Young that have been removed cannot be successfully returned to the wild, as the mother will not continue searching for a missing baby or reject it because it was handled by humans and may no longer smell like her baby. People that feed, touch or remove wildlife from their natural environment are actually causing them harm and may even cause the death of that animal.

“What humans might misinterpret as ‘abandonment’ is actually wild animals living a healthy, wild life,” said CPW District Wildlife Manager Katie Doyle.

“Young wildlife are frequently left alone in a safe location while adult animals search for food. It’s also common for baby birds to sit outside of their nest as they grow bigger and learn to fly. Humans should not approach baby wild animals, because the mother is probably nearby and might attack if she thinks her young are in danger.”

Spring can be a particularly sensitive time for wildlife since many species are nesting, having their young or coming out of hibernation. CPW recommends people give young wildlife space, keep dogs leashed when enjoying dog-friendly trails and do not feed or remove young animals from their natural habitat.

“Wild animals have complex digestive systems and some human food is toxic to animals,” said Karen Fox, CPW wildlife pathologist. “Last year, we saw an increase in reports of people feeding animals by their homes and the animals becoming sick or aggressive. We want to remind people that under Colorado law, feeding wildlife is illegal because it puts an animal’s health and safety in danger.”

Colorado provides a diverse and robust wildlife ecosystem. CPW encourages people outdoors to enjoy wildlife from a safe distance and treasure the growing natural wilderness.

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