Wild young animals do not need our help. Leave them alone, rangers say
May 19, 2017
What not to do
• Father and son busted for bisonnapping
Last May, a pair of Yellowstone visitors were worried that a baby bison was cold, so they put it in the back of their SUV and drove it to a ranger station. The would-be rescuers got a $110 ticket, but the calf fared much worse.
“Park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the newborn bison calf with the herd. These efforts failed,” read a park statement given to the Washington Post. “The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway.”
Signs are plentiful in Yellowstone, as are admonitions on the park’s website warning tourists, “Do not approach wildlife, no matter how tame or calm they appear.”
• Bison-petter survives close encounter
A woman petted a Yellowstone bison’s head and lived to tell the tale on Yellowstone’s opening day last year, according to KRTV in Great Falls, Montana.
The woman, who was not identified, strolled over to a bison lounging in the grass and reached out to pet the massive animal.
Bison don’t like to be bothered and can attack without warning. They have killed three people in Yellowstone history. Five people were gored last year. In one incident, a Yellowstone bison hurled a 43-year-old Mississippi woman into the air as she posed for a selfie. In other incidents, bison gored a 68-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl and tossed an off-trail teenager and an Australian tourist into the air.
Animals are free to roam where they want; their movements are not restricted, said Yellowstone rangers.
• Feeding bears for fun and profit
What a difference a century makes.
About a century ago, the National Park Service used to attract bears to tourists and even set up bleachers to make bear watching more comfortable.
According to Rachel Mazur’s book “Speaking of Bears,” bear-feeding spectacles were major attractions in the early 20th century.
It started in Sequoia National Park, where managers noticed that bears foraged nightly at a garbage dump inside the park.
They built bleachers so visitors could watch as many as 30 bears feed each evening, separated by only a short barrier.
“There were a lot of injuries during those years, but it was before society became litigious,” Mazur wrote.
EDWARDS – Leave those creatures be.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said it receives scores of calls every day from people concerned about wildlife they think have been "abandoned" by adult animals.
Many are tempted to help a young animal by picking it up or trying to feed it.
Don't. Just don't, say wildlife professionals.
"Too often, someone feels sorry for them and takes it upon themselves to feed them. That's a death sentence," said Bill Andree, a local officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
A couple of mountain lion cubs in the mid-valley area are among the many young wild animals that may appear to be in distress, but aren't.
If mountain lion cubs don't have spots, they're old enough to take care of themselves, and will, Andree said.
"If they were starving to death, they'd look worse and worse every time someone saw them," Andree said. "If they're lying on the porch, looking worse and worse, and waiting for someone to eat, we may have to take another look at them."
The nice thing about being a cub this time of year is that there is always something to eat, Andree said — rabbits, mice, raccoons — all sorts of things that are not pets.
"These don't require a high skill level for the young animals to hunt," Andree said.
If these or other mountain lions or other animals make an uninvited appearance in your yard, they need a little negative reinforcement, Andree said. He suggested throwing a rock or turning the hose on them.
It is quite normal for adult animals to leave their young in a safe place while they go forage for food. And often baby birds are learning to fly, near their nests, when some misguided but well-meaning soul decides they've been abandoned, gathers up the young creatures and brings them to wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
It is often the wrong thing to do, said Janet George, senior terrestrial biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
"Baby mammals are scentless in order to prevent predators from finding them," George said. "When humans touch these animals, they are imparting them with a scent their adults will not recognize or even fear. This can result in true abandonment of healthy offspring."
Baby songbirds can be moved out of harm's way or placed back in a nest. Raptors, however, might attack you, George said.
"Great-horned owls and other raptors are territorial and have been known to fly at humans seen as a threat to their young," George said.
What to do
• If you find young wildlife, enjoy a quick glimpse, leave the animal where it is, and keep pets out of the area.
• Quietly observe the animal from a distance using binoculars. Do not hover so close that the wild parents are afraid to return to the area.
• If 24 hours go by and the parent does not return, or the young animal appears sick and weak, it is possible the newborn was abandoned or the parent is dead, possibly hit by a car.
• Then call Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They'll get the animals to a certified wildlife rehabilitation center.
• Don't move the animal yourself.
For more information on living with wildlife, click on "Learn" at cpw.state.co.us.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.