Colorado – Leave Fawns and Calves Alone in the Wild
We are into the season when many species of wildlife across Colorado are either giving birth or have recently had new babies. From fuzzy hatchlings and adorable fawns to spotted skunks and wobbly moose calves, seeing any newborn animal in the wild is both heartwarming and exciting.
While it's cool to encounter cute baby animals in at parks and on the trails in Colorado, it's also important to remember that they are wild species and human interaction should be avoided at all costs.
It takes several days for baby animals to fully imprint on their mom. If humans are spending too much time around the baby animal during this period, they may start to think the person is their parent instead, rather than the actual mother. This can cause the parents to abandon their young prematurely. When this happens, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is often forced to euthanize the young animal since they are unable to survive on their own.
During this time of year, it's common to see fawns, elk, and moose calves laying alone in the woods, fields, or even inside hollow logs. This is totally normal! The babies are placed in these spots by their mothers, who will come back later to retrieve them. Sometimes, this can be more than 12 hours later, but the mom is usually within a few hundred feet of her baby the entire time. She is watching from afar making sure predators steer clear of her offspring. Parents are also foraging for food and will bring it back to their young.
Deer have an incredible sense of smell but do not develop this important survival skill until several days after birth, which is why mothers stick close to their newborns. Baby mammals are scentless as a means to prevent predators from finding them.
Humans should never touch or move young animals that are by themselves. Furthermore, it's never a good idea to feed wildlife, young or old. Although you may think you are helping, that's usually not the case. There is no substitute for an animal's actual mother.
Additionally, parents can be highly protective of their young and may attack if they feel threatened. There have been multiple instances where Coloradans have gotten chased by female elk or moose when they've gotten too close to a baby.
If 24 hours go by and the parent has not returned, it's possible the animal has been abandoned. This is when CPW should be contacted to intervene. Likewise, if a fawn is crying, has curled ears, or visible flies or maggots around it, it is in distress and needs help.