Jefferson County Animal Control officers recently rescued a baby fox from a window, an incident that serves as a reminder to residents about coexisting with local wildlife.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife warns Jeffco residents to resist the urge and stay away from wild animals, especially babies.
According to CPW Public Information Officer Bridget O’Rourke, spring is a time of a lot of animal activity in the wild.
“Now through the end of June is when the next generation of young wildlife is being born," O’Rourke said. "And bears are starting to come out of their winter dens. And they're looking for food. And so, what we've seen over the course of the past few years is people start to see young wildlife more visible in their backyards and on trails.”
Bears and their young are not the only animals you can encounter in the area. Others include deer, elk, baby Pronghorn, moose calves, fox cubs and even birds that have fallen out of their nests.
O’Rourke said the problem comes when humans try to interfere when they see a baby animal alone in their yard or on a trail.
“What people think is that ‘Oh, they need to be rescued. I'm going to help them out. I'm going to put them in the back of my truck, or I'm going to go chase them to try to find the mother,’” she said.
But doing any of these things is a major mistake, O'Rourke said. Interfering with wildlife leads to consequences for everyone.
“It's very common for mothers to leave their young wildlife in one specific place as they're trying to look for food," she said. "In particular, with moose — and we've seen this more with deer as well — if you try to approach their babies, (the moose) will charge an attack. And people have been physically hurt. They've lost teeth, they've broken arms, they've broken ribs.”
She went on to explain how baby birds learn to fly by “flopping out of the nest.”
So, that baby bird in the yard or on the trail could be in the middle of a lesson. Even if they’ve fallen out of the nest, O’Rourke urges residents to leave the babies alone.
“What people do is they go and they touch (the baby bird). They try to put them back in the nest, they remove the bird from the situation altogether and bring it into our office.”
At that point, there is nothing that CPW can do.
“The mother is never going take it back after that many human scents," she said. "There's no way for us to put it to a rehab center or put it back to its nest.”
An attempt to “save” a baby bird thus ends up creating a dire situation.
CPW’s new campaign is to stop people from interfering with animal life.
According to O’Rourke, homegrown efforts to “save” a baby animal often lead to killing them.
“The common thing that we see is people will see maybe pronghorn or baby deer, and they will bring it into our office," she said. "Sometimes we're able to find a rehab center. Sometimes the animal is in so much distress — it's hyperventilating and it's dehydrated — that it has to be euthanized. Some people take the animals home and try to feed them themselves. Those animals get violently ill, throwing up, and diarrhea, because they've been fed things like NutriGrain bars, which their stomachs can't handle.”
CPW wants the public to understand that it’s a privilege to be in a state with 960 species of wildlife. We need to learn “how to live in harmony with wildlife.”
"Give them their space and respect them,” O’Rourke said.
Call CPW’s Denver office at (303) 291-7227 or go to its website for more information immediately if you see baby animals who look sick, in distress or abandoned. Don’t touch or approach them, and remove your pets from the area.
For more information check out the “Leave Young Animals Alone” from CPW.