Elk leaves baby on Arizona doorstep — but ‘surprised homeowners’ did everything right

Arizona Game & Fish Department

Homeowners opened their door and saw a lone elk calf staring back at them.

The baby elk seemed to be abandoned on the home’s doorstep in Pine, Arizona, on Tuesday, May 31, the state’s Game and Fish Department said.

The homeowners didn’t know exactly what to do. The elk was alone, with no mom in sight. They turned to the experts and did everything right.

“The surprised homeowners did the right thing and left it there, undisturbed,” wildlife officials said in a June 4 Facebook post. “They called AZGFD for advice, thinking that the calf was abandoned or injured.”

The calf, however, wasn’t injured. It was left there intentionally by its mother. Moving the elk would’ve been a big mistake, wildlife officials said.

Typically, calves get left in a “more natural setting,” officials said. Sometimes baby animals get left in a grassy field or by trees.

Since this elk was left near someone’s home, wildlife officials instructed the homeowners to let it be.

“Mom left it there for ‘daycare’ in the early morning, and came back to pick it up after lunch,” Game and Fish said.

Arizona Game and Fish said officials have responded to several instances in the state where an elk calf was already removed from where its mother left it. That makes it hard for officials to help reunite the calf with its parents.

Mother elk can also get aggressive if they see humans moving their young, officials said. People should always leave young animals alone and contact wildlife officials.

In 2020, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said people kept kidnapping young animals while trying to save them.

“This is the time of year when deer fawns are born — and there is a chance you will come upon one that’s all alone,” wildlife officials said in 2020. “Please don’t assume any young animal is orphaned just because it’s alone — and don’t pick it up.”

Animals that people touch have to be removed from their environment and aren’t able to learn important survival skills from their parents, which results in a shorter lifespan or a life in captivity, officials said.

If people see a young animal with a dead parent or if the parent hasn’t returned for a long period of time, they should call their local wildlife office.

“Female deer and elk and other mammals will often leave their young temporarily for safety reasons or to feed elsewhere,” officials said. “They will return when it is safe to do so (when people, dogs, or predators are not present).”

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