The Shambled State of Wildlife Rehabilitation in the Front Range

While I am aware of the limited resources available for distressed wildlife in Boulder County, Colorado, I was shocked to discover that it is nearly impossible to assist injured deer in the Front Range of Colorado. The barriers that injured deer face came to my attention on February 28th, when I encountered a Facebook post that communicated a desperate plea on behalf of an injured fawn. A fawn with a broken leg had stumbled into a Boulder resident’s backyard and was in need of medical attention. Despite that this deer’s injury was not fatal and that the fawn arguably could have been rehabilitated with proper veterinary and rehabilitation services, it was reported that the fawn was killed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

FawnBoulder

The natural question to ask is: Why?

The answer is far from satisfying.

When Boulder residents encounter injured wildlife, the standard course of action is to consult a wildlife rehabilitation facility, such as the Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Longmont, Colorado. Yet, due to financial and facility constraints, Greenwood is not licensed to rehabilitate members of the family Cervidae (such as deer, elk, and moose). Moreover, there are no rehabilitation centers in the Front Range that are licensed to treat deer. This is especially troubling because the entire Front Range is considered to be an “active Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) site.” According to Colorado law, when an injured member of the family Cervidae is found in “active CWD areas,” these animals can only be treated in a rehabilitation facility located in a Game Management Unit (GMU) where at least one confirmed case of CWD has been documented. Since the fawn was discovered in a GMU where at least one confirmed case of CWD has been documented and there are no rehabilitation facilities in this GMU licensed to assist deer, the fawn was sentenced to death.

So are there any options for injured deer in the Front Range?

As mentioned, there are no rehabilitation facilities in the Front Range licensed to treat deer. Moreover, Front Range deer cannot be treated in rehabilitation facilities located in “clean” areas. One option might be to contact a veterinarian, yet it is often the case that there are no veterinarians available to treat injured deer. Moreover, while veterinarians can provide emergency care to deer for up to 24 hours, it is illegal for them to keep deer long enough to rehabilitate them.

A second option might be to transport injured deer to a licensed rehabilitation facility licensed in “CWD active areas.” Yet, it is against Colorado law to transport members of the family Cervidae without a license or permit. While a CPW representative I spoke with suggested that it is unlikely for someone to be fined for transporting injured wildlife to a rehabilitation facility, it is, indeed, against the law to transport these animals without a permit. Furthermore, there is the pressing question of whether there are any rehabilitation facilities in “active CWD areas” that are licensed to treat deer. I personally inquired about this in recent conversation with two CPW representatives, neither of whom could offer an answer to this question.

The killing of this fawn in Boulder County is indicative of the shambled state of wildlife rehabilitation in the Front Range. The fact that there are no rehabilitation facilities in the Front Range that are licensed to treat deer is, itself, a tragedy. Moreover, in the past three years, two Front Range rehabilitation centers have closed (Wild Bird Center and Wild Kind) and another is in danger of closing in July 2016 due to financial constraints (Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center). Currently, Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in Well and Larimer Counties. Should Ellicott close, Greenwood’s services will be in even higher demand, making it unlikely that they will be able to extend their services to injured deer in the future.

It is regrettable that the Front Range cannot effectively assist our injured wildlife. And it is quite telling that CPW, which is entrusted with assisting Colorado’s wildlife, cannot point residents to rehabilitation centers that can help Front Range deer, especially given that CPW itself licenses wildlife rehabilitation facilities.

We must remember that, in more cases than not, injured wildlife are in need of our assistance because our own actions interfere with their welfare. Human development is known to displace wildlife from their homes while highways and roads impose risks upon wildlife. As we transform and, in many cases, destroy the habitats of wildlife, we expose wildlife to risks that they would not have been subject to had we let them and their habitats be. Given the extent to which we impose burdens on wildlife, the least we can do is provide them with assistance when they are in distress. While, as individuals, we might be limited in our ability to assist wildlife, we can start to make a difference by offering support to our local wildlife rehabilitation centers. They are our only hope for wildlife in the Front Range.

 

-Written by Cheryl E Abbate
Published February 29, 2016

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