Wildlife officials in Colorado have warned hikers not to pick up and move young deer, after several incidents where people have loaded fawns into their cars in the mistaken belief that they have been abandoned.
As local news site the Colorado Sun explains, there has been a recent uptick in the number of people putting fawns in their vehicles and taking them to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) offices. This can have serious consequences, and can even lead to the death of the young animal.
CPW public information officer Bridget O'Rourke says that although people mean well, fawns are rarely abandoned by their mothers. Taking them away is "essentially kidnapping them" and leaves the animals distressed and frightened.
"We kind of see this every year, where people have the misconception of they see a fawn by itself and don’t see its mother and think it’s been abandoned," she says. "So they put it in their car and bring it to us, but they don’t understand the behavior of wild animals and that it’s common for a doe to leave a fawn alone when it goes looking for food."
When a fawn is delivered to a CPW office, the team have to call around rehabilitation centers to see if one can take it. If not, the animal may have to be euthanized.
The same is true of elk. Earlier this month, well-intentioned tourists visiting Yellowstone National Park spotted a calf they they believed had been abandoned, loaded it into their truck, and drove it to a nearby police station.
Upon arrival, the calf ran away into the forest. Its fate is unknown, but it seems unlikely that it was able to find its mother.
"The park calls on visitors to protect wildlife by understanding how their actions can negatively impact wildlife," said the National Park Service in a statement released after the incident, which is under investigation.
Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in some cases, their survival. When an animal is near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, on a road, or in a developed area, leave it alone and give it space.June 8, 2023
For more advice, see our guide wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).