'Don't take baby elk home' officials warn well-meaning hikers

Elk calf and mother
(Image credit: Getty)

Wildlife officials in Utah have warned well-meaning hikers not to pick up baby elk and deer and take them home, even if they believe they have been abandoned. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) advises hikers and campers to leave calves and fawns where they are, and never to touch or try to feed them. 

As the DWR explains, you're likely to come across young animals in late May and June, but even if they seem to be alone, it's likely that their mother is nearby. In fact, she has likely left the youngster briefly for its own safety.

"Newborn fawns are actually frequently alone and isolated during their first weeks of life – and that's on purpose," said Dax Mangus, big game coordinator at Utah DWR. "The mother knows that leaving the fawn alone is the best way to protect it from predators."

Keep wildlife wild

The DWR warns that petting wild animals can leave your scent behind, which can attract predators, and approaching them can cause them to run away and expend energy they need to survive. You should never try to move a newborn, either. DWR conservation officers sometimes respond to incidents where a member of the public has taken a calf or fawn home to 'care for it'.

"[T]hat often has fatal consequences for the animal and can also create public safety risks as the animal matures," says the department. "It is illegal to keep wildlife in captivity and can result in a class A misdemeanor. If you believe that a baby animal is injured or sick, report it to the nearest DWR Office.

Trying to 'help' young animals can have tragic consequences. A newborn bison was euthanized at Yellowstone National Park last weekend after a man pushed it onto a roadway in the hopes that it would re-join its mother. The calf began approaching people and cars, and sadly Park Rangers were unable to reunite it with the herd.

"Keeping your distance and not touching wildlife are the keys to keeping young animals alive," says Mangus. "Attempting to take matters into your own hands and trying to ‘help’ wildlife usually does more harm than good. Help wildlife by allowing them to remain wild."

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 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), usually wearing at least two sports watches.