Despite the wintry weather in many parts of the state, spring is here, and with this new season comes the arrival of many baby birds and mammals to Colorado. It is imperative to remind citizens that although newborn wildlife may be found in their yards, along trails or in open spaces, the best advice is to leave them alone.
Each year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife receives scores of calls from concerned residents that wildlife have been “abandoned” by adult animals. Many are tempted to help a young animal by picking it up or trying to feed it, however it is critical that people understand there is no substitute for the animal’s natural parents.
Wildlife experts agree that it is quite normal for adult animals to leave their young in a safe place while they go forage for food. And often baby birds are learning to fly near their nests when they are deemed abandoned. While well-meaning people sometimes gather up this baby wildlife and bring them to wildlife rehabilitation facilities, it is often the wrong thing to do.
Citizens are reminded that if they find young wildlife, they should enjoy a quick glimpse and then leave the animal where it is, making sure to keep pets out of the area. Residents should observe the animal from a distance using binoculars so that the wild parents aren’t afraid to return to the area.
“If 24 hours go by and the parent does not return, it is possible the newborn was abandoned or something happened to the adult animal,” said Jenny Campbell, customer service expert with CPW. “Call our office and we will work with a certified wildlife rehabilitation center to get aid for the wildlife if possible. Don’t move the animal yourself.”
“The most important rule to follow when you encounter a baby mammal or songbird that you suspect may be abandoned is to wait at a distance and observe,” said Lea Peshock, Animal Care Supervisor at Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. “There is a vast amount of information on our website to help people determine if an animal is truly orphaned, because it’s not always easy to tell.”
Finally, it is imperative for Coloradans to understand that it is illegal to own or possess wildlife in the state. People can avoid heartache if they don’t “adopt” the cute baby raccoon or skunk. However, human-raised and hand-fed animals are rarely returned to the wild due to their lack of survival skills or imprint on humans. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are trained to use methods that will give a wild animal the best chance of surviving upon release.
For more information on living with wildlife, please visit http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/
LivingWithWildlife/Pages/LivingWith.aspx or go to the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s website.