CPW: Leave wildlife alone

Colorado Hunter magazine

For more information about hunting in Northwest Colorado as well as stories from local residents, see the 2012 Colorado Hunter Magazine. Click here to see the e-edition.

With the arrival of summer, Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to remind the public that leaving wildlife alone gives the animals the best chance of long-term survival, the agency said in a news release.

When encountered in the wild, baby animals can sometimes appear to have been abandoned. Unlike human babies, however, calves, fawns, young raccoons, rabbits and many other species are often deliberately left alone by their mothers to give them the best chance of survival, and human intervention often adversely affects their long-term chances of survival, according to the release.

“We know most people mean well,” said Erin Serfoss, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Customer Service Representative in Grand Junction, in the release. “But picking up a healthy, young animal and bringing it to us or a vet for help is often the worst thing they can do. In the majority of cases, the young animal is much better off left alone.”

Wild animals have developed survival instincts that make human intervention unnecessary, the release stated.

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 looks for food, according to the release.

Additionally, handling most wildlife is illegal. People attempting to rehabilitate animals without authorization from Colorado Parks and Wildlife face stiff fines. And, wildlife can carry diseases that can be passed to humans along with serious injuries from scratches and bites from sharp teeth and claws, according to the release.

“For their own safety, as well as the safety of the animal, people should not handle wildlife,” said Trina Romero, Watchable Wildlife Coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in the release. “If after careful observation, it appears that an animal does need human intervention, the best course of action is calling a wildlife officer.”

Romero 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, calling a wildlife expert would be the right move.

“If it is truly abandoned or needs help, a wildlife officer will determine what should happen to the young animal and may choose to take it to a vet or a licensed rehabilitation center where the goal is to eventually release it back into its natural habitat," Romero said in the release.

Rare cases do exist where an animal can benefit from human intervention and an officer may not be needed. Wildlife officials do recommend making an effort to return a baby bird that has fallen from its nest. Even if a person can only place the fallen chick near its nest, the mother will hear its cries and continue to feed it, according to the release.

Place the young bird in a box lined with paper towels or dryer lint, but do not use grass. The moisture content in grass will lower the bird's body temperature, the release stated.

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, according to the release.

For more information, visit http://wildlife.state.co.us/Education/TeacherResources/ColoradoWildlifeCompany/Pages/WatchingYoungCWCSpr2000.aspx.

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