DAP Asks to Keep Wildlife Wild and Leave Wildlife Alone

Published on May 17, 2023

With warmer weather upon us, many people are spending more time outside and encountering wildlife. While the animals, and their babies, you encounter in the wild may be cute and furry, they can be dangerous and even carry diseases like rabies. Denver Animal Protection (DAP) reminds Denver residents to avoid the temptation to pet these critters and instead exercise caution and avoid contact with wild animals for both human and animal safety.

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

As a result of the danger presented by rabies, 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 euthanized and tested for rabies. Even a seemingly healthy animal could be carrying rabies and not exhibit any symptoms. If you encounter these animals, do not approach or try to touch them and keep a safe distance.

This spring, DAP officers have already responded to calls of people who brought baby animals into their homes and played with them, presenting a serious rabies risk. Those who have handled the animals must go to their doctor and may receive post-exposure rabies vaccinations. If their pets at home were in contact with the animals, they must be quarantined for up to 45 days.

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.

If you see sick or injured wildlife, leave the animal alone and contact DAP at 720-913-2080 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 assess 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.