A calf moose walks toward the willows with its mother after getting trapped in a barbed-wire fence in June 2012 just outside Steamboat.

Photo by Matt Stensland

A calf moose walks toward the willows with its mother after getting trapped in a barbed-wire fence in June 2012 just outside Steamboat.

Let young wildlife be, officials say

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— Local wildlife officials are concerned about the number of baby animals being picked up by humans, who fear they are sick or have been abandoned.

Tracy Bye, who runs the Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Center just outside Steamboat, said she recently had eight elk calves brought in.

“We go through this every year, but I was shocked when she told me the numbers she’s dealing with,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said.

Haskins and Bye are concerned about humans with good intentions unnecessarily intervening.

“They’re almost never abandoned,” Haskins said. “You should always assume that they’re not abandoned.”

The advice is simple. Leave wildlife alone, and if concerns persist, contact Parks and Wildlife.

“We’ll make the determination,” Haskins said.

Haskins and Bye said it is normal for young wildlife to be left alone for a period by their mothers, who are out looking for food. Sometimes the mothers will not return until the next day, and they could be deterred if there are humans in the area around her calf.

“Mom is waiting for you to leave so she can come get them,” Bye said. “Look from afar and leave.”

Bye said abandonment never occurs with a healthy mother and a healthy calf. Sometimes there are instances of abandonment when the mother is injured.

Haskins thinks human intervention might have led to the abandonment of a calf moose that was found at the end of May near the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association building.

“It was totally unafraid of people,” Haskins said. “It would almost run up to you.”

The moose was taken down to a Parks and Wildlife research facility at Colorado State University. It is doing fine, but its future is uncertain.

“Often you don’t successfully rehab them,” Haskins said.

There are talks of the moose going into a zoo.

Bye said all the elk calves she took care of were reintroduced into the wild.

“All eight of them were totally fine,” Bye said.

In one case, Bye said a Parks and Wildlife officer brought an elk back to where it was picked up.

“The mom was pacing in the woods looking for it,” Bye said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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