Spring and summer months mean a boom in wildlife baby populations. And while these babies are cute, they can be dangerous. Denver Animal Protection (DAP) reminds Denver residents to keep wildlife wild—and stay away, for both human and animal safety.

Image by pacificairforce from Pixabay

Wild animals account for more than 90% of reported rabies cases in the U.S. Rabies is a virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The virus is usually transmitted through a bite and if not treated before symptoms appear, it’s deadly. Rabies has the highest mortality rate—99.9%—of any disease on earth.

Because rabies is so dangerous, DAP takes interactions between humans and wildlife extremely seriously. Any skunk, raccoon, bat, coyote, or fox, handled by a person or in contact with a pet, must be tested for rabies. Even a seemingly healthy animal could be carrying rabies and not exhibit any symptoms. Unfortunately, that animal must be euthanized to be tested.

DAP officers have already responded to calls this spring in which people brought baby raccoons into their homes and played with them, which presents a serious rabies risk. People who handled the animals must go to their doctor—and may have to get post-exposure rabies vaccinations. And their pets, if they were in contact with the animals, must be quarantined for at least, 45 days. The best thing to do if you see an animal you think may be abandoned or needs help, is to report it.

It’s important to know young wildlife are usually not orphaned. Many species of wildlife leave their young in a safe place to look for food. It is not uncommon for baby animals to be left alone for hours. Mom is usually not far away and comes back to take care of her young. Also, birds often leave the nest before they can fly, hopping around on the ground for days. These fledglings will feed on the ground until they are able to fly. Generally, if good Samaritans intervene, thinking the babies are abandoned, they do more harm than good.

So as our days grow longer and warmer, remember, by trying to help wildlife, you might be hurting them. Human-animal encounters are often unnecessary and detrimental to the animal. A young animal’s best chance for survival is with its parents who can ensure it learns all its natural behaviors for survival in the wild.

If you see sick or injured wildlife, leave the animal alone and contact DAP through 311 or the Denver Police non-emergency number of 720-913-2000. DAP works closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and wildlife rehab centers in the state. Our officers can access if an animal needs to be humanely euthanized or transported to a rehab center for care. Additionally, be sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date to protect them in the event of exposure to rabies.

DAP does not remove healthy wildlife from residences. If a complaint is only pest-related, residents should contact private pest control companies.