Can I Keep Him? No, you can't.
If you have found a wild animal in crisis, you may be facing a dilemma. Of course, you want to do what’s best for the animal, but the temptation to care for the young animal yourself may be strong. So why can’t you keep the animal?
First, keeping orphaned wildlife in the State of Colorado is against the law. Native wildlife species are protected by state laws, federal laws, or both. To keep a wild animal in captivity for any length of time, for any reason, requires at least one special permit. Most cities and many counties have local ordinances that prevent individuals from keeping wild animals in captivity. Many neighborhood associations or covenants also prohibit keeping wildlife within property boundaries.
More importantly, wild animals deserve the best possible care. Providing the proper care is challenging because each species has specialized needs. Orphans need special diets and formulas to grow strong and healthy. They also must learn survival skills, including how to recognize and find food, how to escape predators, and how and where to make a nest, den, or burrow before being released back into the wild. Young animals need to be raised in the company of their own kind for proper behavioral development. Infections, parasites, and injuries are common and difficult to detect and treat in wild animals.
There is also your own welfare and that of your family to consider. Wild animals can be dangerous, especially when frightened or injured. Wildlife diseases, such as distemper, may pose a threat to companion animals, while others, including rabies and tularemia, can also be transmitted to humans.
Most people who want to care for a wild animal themselves plan to release the animal once it is grown or has recovered from its injuries. That is the goal of wildlife rehabilitation, but rehabilitators have an advantage when they return their patients to the wild—they have years of experience. Knowing what the animal needs to survive in the wild, knowing when the animal is ready to be on its own, and learning to avoid becoming too attached to a patient are important parts of becoming a good wildlife rehabilitator.
If you are tempted to care for a wild animal on your own, please ask yourself these questions first:
- What is the best thing I can do for this animal?
- If I’m having a hard time letting go of the animal now, how will I feel after I’ve really grown attached?
- Am I prepared to deal with the legal and financial consequences of keeping a wild animal illegally? How will I feel if the animal is discovered, confiscated, and possibly euthanized?
- Am I prepared to deal with the health consequences of someone being bitten or scratched, my pets or house becoming infested with parasites, a person or pet catching a disease, or just simple allergic reactions?
- Can I be certain that, once I’ve released the animal back to the wild, it is capable of surviving on its own? Am I providing the best possible chance for survival?
- How will my family and I feel if the animal dies in our care or is permanently impaired by my improper care?
Visit our webpages for more information about to keep Colorado wildlife WILD or call 970 226-3647 x322 for more information.