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Fawn stands on towels
A fawn that was brought in by a concerned citizen to Colorado Parks and Wildlife's offices when they found it alone in the woods in June 2023. The agency warns against this. CPW tries to place animals in a wildlife rehabilitation facility, but if it can't, animals must be euthanized. (Provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is warning humans to leave young wildlife they encounter in nature alone, even if the animals appear abandoned. 

The message comes after an uptick of cases involving people stumbling upon what appear to be neglected fawns in the forest, then picking them up, packing them out and taking them to a CPW office. 

Bridget O’Rourke, CPW’s statewide public information officer, says the phenomenon happens more often than one may think. 

“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.”  

O’Rourke says removing a fawn from its natural habitat —“essentially kidnapping it”— can come with devastating consequences. The worst is a “rescuer” driving a fawn to a CPW office. 

CPW says people have been bringing fawns like this one to its offices, thinking the animals have been abandoned. The agency says they’re safest left alone. (Provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

“Because when it arrives, usually the animal is under a lot of distress and frightened,” she says. “Then we have to call around to rehab centers to see if one can take it. If we’re not able to find one, which sometimes we can’t, then the animal has to be euthanized because if you release it back into the wild, the mother can’t find and take care of it.” 

A news release Tuesday from CPW said: “A mother deer’s best survival strategy for her fawn is to leave it unattended for several hours a day. The mother carefully selects a location and will return periodically to feed her young. By staying away, she avoids drawing attention to its hiding place. Young fawns have exceptional camouflage, almost no scent and remain still, making it difficult for predators to spot them.” 

But a moose that leapt Sunday from the top of a two-story parking garage near Steamboat Resort was a different story. 

CPW rangers responded to a call about the incident and, upon arrival, found an approximately 2-year-old bull splayed on the cement, dead, with a broken neck. Rangers removed the moose and donated its meat to the community.

David Rehak Suma, Colorado Parks and Wildlife district manager, told The Steamboat Pilot he had hoped to arrive in time to keep the public back and give the animal the room it needed to find its way safely off the structure.

“A witness said that people were crowding it, trying to take pictures of it,” Rehak Suma told the paper. “Then, sure enough, the moose jumped off the roof there on the north side and fell to its death.”

 “Wild animals need a sense of safe exits,” O’Rourke told The Sun.

A moose takes a drink of water next to the East of Aspen Trail near Independence Pass in Aspen in June 2021. (Kelsey Brunner, The Aspen Times via AP)

O’Rourke said around 3,000 moose live in Colorado, and that their numbers are growing thanks to healthy habitat. CPW encourages people to avoid thick willow habitats in riparian areas favored by moose to decrease the chances of an encounter. On Tuesday, longtime Coal Creek resident Robert Standerwick was walking his dogs on a trail when he rounded a curve in a trail and surprised a cow moose with her calf. 

The moose charged and knocked Standerwick down, stomping him several times, CPW reported.

Standerwick was armed and fired two shots into the ground in an effort to startle the moose. The moose and calf were not shot and retreated, Standerwick said. He was transported to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The dogs were uninjured and off-leash at the time.  

Tracy Ross writes about the intersection of people and the natural world, industry, social justice and rural life from the perspective of someone who grew up in rural Idaho, lived in the Alaskan bush, reported in regions from Iran to Ecuador...