DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is encouraging social distancing at state parks. Not only is CPW asking visitors to stay away from each other, officials are also asking people to stay away from young wildlife.

Deer with her fawns by Jim Moore of Bailey.

CPW and local parks have received an increase in office visits and calls from people who have “rescued” young wildlife that appeared “abandoned” by adult animals. Although the reports are made with good intentions, CPW said young animals do not need rescuing and are prepared by nature to survive without human intervention.

“Young animals learn healthy instincts in the wild and gain confidence over time to slowly distance themselves from their parents,” said CPW Spokesperson Bridget Kochel. “People that feed, touch or remove wildlife from their natural environment are actually causing them harm and stunting their growth. This can also lead to mothers rejecting their young and creating a truly harmful situation for young wildlife.”

(credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Kochel said handling animals may lead to them being rejected by their parents with no rehabilitation alternative. It is also important to leave young wildlife alone to avoid conflicts with animals that can result in hospital visits for injuries or rabies exposure, or create unnecessary in-person interactions with park rangers and wildlife officers.

If you see an injured animal in physical danger, call your local CPW office. Do not move the animal. CPW licensed wildlife officers are trained to properly handle wildlife and seek medical attention for the animal if needed. CPW offices and visitor centers remain closed to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19, but staff is available by phone at CPW offices statewide to answer questions.

“Our state and local park staff are working together to keep outdoor recreation opportunities available and park visitors safe,” said Allison Kincaid, Executive Director of the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association. “We ask our outdoor community to visit Colorado parks responsibly and keep a safe distance from wildlife to avoid unforeseen injuries. During this time of physical distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope this will be the next step. Give wildlife the physical distancing they need as well.”

According to CPW officials, young wildlife is frequently left alone in a safe location while adult animals search for food. It is 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.

“Young wildlife has the best chance of survival when they are left in the care of their wild parents,” said CPW Senior Wildlife Biologist Shannon Schaller. “People mean well when they take wildlife from the wild, but removing young animals improperly from their natural habit is often the wrong thing to do.”

Under Colorado law, feeding wildlife is illegal because it puts an animal’s health and safety in danger.

“Wild animals have complex digestive systems and some human food is toxic to animals,” said Frank McGee, CPW Area Wildlife Manager in Colorado Springs. “Young wildlife need to find natural food sources on their own in order to survive and thrive.”

Colorado provides a diverse and robust wildlife ecosystem. CPW and CPRA encourage people outdoors to enjoy wildlife from a safe distance and treasure the growing natural wilderness that surrounds us.

CPW will resume staffing at some state parks in order to enforce guidelines from Gov. Jared Polis. The staff will provide customer service and enforce social distancing rules at parks including Cherry Creek State Park and Chatfield State Park.

Audra Streetman

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