WESTERN SAN JUANS – As the summer season approaches, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are reminding everyone to leave baby animals alone, even if they seem to be abandoned.
According to Parks and Wildlife southwest region spokesman Joe Lewandowski, his office has received numerous reports recently from people concerned that a young elk and fawns have been abandoned. Lewandowski said it’s normal to see these young animals without their mothers and that it’s important to their survival to leave them alone.
“People are seeing young deer and elk alone and think it’s been abandoned,” Lewandowski said. “The mother will often stow the young away for some time while it goes off to feed and rest. However, the mother will be in the vicinity and always comes back to feed its young. If someone picks up a fawn and moves it somewhere, the doe will never find it again. It’s really a death sentence for the fawn if humans move them.”
Wild animals have developed survival instincts that make human intervention unnecessary. For example, young deer and elk stumbling about weakly while learning to walk can attract predators, so nature has provide simple but effective survival tactics – the ability to lie still for hours, little to no scent and natural camouflage. Despite initial appearances, the young animal is much safer left alone while its mother forages for food.
Handling most wildlife is also illegal. People attempting to rehabilitate animals without authorization from Colorado Parks and Wildlife face stiff fines. Additionally, wildlife can carry diseases, and handling it can lead to human illness or serious injuries from scratches and bites from sharp teeth and claws.
People should also avoid feeding wildlife. It is illegal, irresponsible, and can carry hefty fines. A wild animal's natural diet is difficult to duplicate and an attempt to feed it or give it water can cause illness or disease. It can also condition wild animals to see humans as a source of food.
Lewandowski said that a young animal that appears healthy and active is likely either still receiving food from its mother, or is capable of surviving on its own and does not need human help. However, if a young animal has been left alone for 12 hours or more, appears emaciated and weak, or it is obvious that the animal’s mother has been killed or severely injured, it may be time to call in an expert.
“If people see something and they are concerned, they can call our office in Montrose at 970-252-6000,” he said. “People should also talk to their kids and tell them that if they see a baby animal, leave it where it is and don’t touch it.”