When visiting the great outdoors in the spring and early summer, even if you are only venturing as far as your own backyard, there is something important to keep in mind: when it comes to taking care of wildlife babies, no one does it better than wildlife moms.

Whether you see a baby bird hopping on the ground or a tiny elk calf curled up in the shade of trees or bushes, please leave it alone. Don’t assume the young animal has been abandoned. In almost every situation, the mother is close by and may even watch you watch her baby.

Animal parents will periodically leave their young to search for food or to divert attention away from their vulnerable offspring, especially if they sense danger. Young wild animals, like elk calves, know instinctively to remain still and in the places their mothers have left them. Elk cows (moms) will return every three to four hours to nurse and care for their young. In the meantime, a calf’s protective coloring and lack of movement helps hide its location from predators.

For the past few years, bull elk have become a regular site moseying through Payson’s neighborhoods, munching on residents’ bushes and flowers and even emptying bird feeders as they go.

But this year, cow elk and their yearlings have also become a common site in town. And as cows give birth in late May through early June, we could soon very well see the ever-so-cute, spotted little ones hiding alone in the shade or bopping around our neighborhoods.

Just please remember to leave them alone.

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