Wildlife should be left to live in the wild

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A couple of deer graze in an apple orchard. Residents are asked to leave fawns alone as they usually are not abandoned. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

A couple of deer graze in an apple orchard. Residents are asked to leave fawns alone as they usually are not abandoned.

Life in Southwest Colorado means daily interaction between the urban and natural world. That interaction, however, should take place at a distance, according to officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Local parks and wildlife offices have been receiving a high number of calls from local residents who have “rescued” baby animals in the wild, particularly fawns, said Joe Lewandowski, public information specialist for parks and wildlife’s southwest region.

“It is a message we give out every year, that people need to leave animals alone,” Lewandowski said. “Animals do a lot better on their own then they do with us.”

Durango and Cortez-area wildlife officers have received numerous calls from La Plata and Montezuma county residents who have picked up fawns they believe to have been abandoned.

Lewandowski said the perception that these animals have been left to fend for themselves is not always accurate.

“What a doe will do is kind of hide the fawn,” Lewandowski said. “The fawn knows to stay still and stay in one place because the mother has to go off and eat as she needs to replenish her energy stores.”

Fawns have natural defenses against predators which allow them to stay safe and hidden while their mothers search for food, Lewandowski said.

“When a fawn is born, they are very small and their coloring gives them a lot of camouflage,” he said. “What’s unusual is they don’t have any odor to speak of. Predators rely on their noses a lot and fawns really have no odor, it is a natural protection.”

Sometimes, however, fawns may be disoriented or frightened and will rise from their hiding place while the doe stays out of sight.

When that occurs, Lewandowski said, well-intentioned people often pick up the fawns in a rescue attempt.

“People see it in a yard or a field or something like that and they think the fawns have been abandoned, and they haven’t been,” he said. “It is just nature’s way of doing things.”

Fawns aren’t the only small animals that can be the target of removal from the wild. Birds, fox kits, rabbits and other small animals are often adopted from the wild in an effort to provide a safe home.

However, rescuing an animal from the wild is not always a benevolent act.

When wildlife officials take control of young animals removed from the wild, they typically try to return the young to their natural habitat. When a fawn is brought back to the wild, officials try to return it to the same spot from which it was taken, Lewandowski said. However, by that point, the doe has usually moved on without her young.

“We try to return it to as close to the same spot as possible so the mother will come back,” he said. “But if a fawn has been gone for a couple of days, the does usually figures a predator has picked it up and they move on. Without their mothers close by it is going to be tough for that fawn to learn what to eat and how to generally survive.”

The solution, Lewandowski said, is for the public to observe wildlife from a distance an try to not interfere in the natural order.

“We really urge people to leave those young where they see them,” he said. “In the wild, mortality of young animals is very high. Half of the population don’t make it to a year old. That is nature’s way and it is very hard for us to do anything for these animals. They can do better on their own.”

Lewandowski noted it is also important to avoid sustained interaction with wildlife, as the more comfortable animals grow with humans the greater problems can arise.

“Animals are very adaptable and they are becoming a greater part of our world,” he said. “We need to do our part to ensure these animals stay wild.”

If you see an animal in distress or have further questions, contact the Durango parks and wildlife office at 375-6744.

Reach Kimberly Benedict at kimberlyb@cortezjournal.com.