Due to concerns about people approaching, feeding and harassing an injured cow elk grazing in a field near East Vail, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is issuing stern warnings about the dangers of approaching wild animals.
In recent days, local police and state wildlife officers have received calls from the public reporting that they have witnessed large crowds walking up to the animal. In some instances, a few people have been seen putting their arms around the animal's neck as they pose for pictures.
Velarde warns that despite initial appearances, wild animals instinctively have little tolerance for humans. He adds that it is likely only a matter of time before the cow elk becomes agitated to the point of charging and injuring a person that gets too close.
Because human health and safety is a priority, animals that injure a human are often killed by wildlife officers out of an abundance of caution, regardless of the circumstances.
Area wildlife officials report that the elk appears to have an injured rear leg, possibly limiting its ability to move away from onlookers. They warn that the injury is an additional stressor that could lead to a physical reaction from the animal.
"We continuously provide guidance to the public about the best way to enjoy wildlife, and this is definitely not the way to do it," added Velarde. "We are appealing to the public to leave this animal alone immediately."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife advises the public to watch wildlife from a distance with binoculars, a camera or spotting scope. In addition, the public is advised to keep dogs on leashes in areas where encounters with wildlife are likely. Because dogs are a serious threat to wild animals, any law enforcement official is authorized to use lethal force to stop a dog that is chasing or injuring wildlife.
"If a wild animal reacts to you or your dog, you are too close," said Velarde. "Keep your distance, keep dogs on a leash and remember to use good judgement around wildlife."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife advises the public to report illegal activity to the nearest CPW office, State Patrol or call Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648 if you wish to remain anonymous. Rewards may be available if the report leads to a citation.
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