Our specialists at Animal Removal of Denver caution that you should find out what animals in Colorado can be domesticated because it is illegal to own wildlife. Wild and exotic animals as pets may be the latest fad, but it’s generally not good policy. According to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife article, there are laws and regulations that govern wildlife. Wild animals belong to the state and its citizens, and you can’t just take a wild animal home as a pet.
If you get a license from the state, there are some animals that you’re allowed to keep as pets. Our state also has laws about exotic or non-native animals. Some imported and exotic species brought into Colorado are legal with permits and others are prohibited. Restrictions are to keep people safe and prevent spreading diseases to people, pets, livestock, and native wildlife.
Of course, it is legal to have domestic animals in Colorado. They are listed in the Colorado Parks and Wildlife article and include: alpacas, donkeys, bison, camels, cats, cattle, chickens, chinchillas, dogs, ducks, emu, European ferrets, Guinea fowl, geese, gerbils, goats, hamsters, horses, llamas, mice, minks, ostriches, peafowl, Guinea pigs, pigeons, European rabbits, rats, rhea, reindeer, sheep, swine turkeys and yaks.
Wildlife You Can Own
There is some exotic wildlife in Colorado that are allowed to be commercially sold called unregulated wildlife. You do not need a license to own, import, or sell these species.
According to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, these are the non-mammal species that are legal to own in Colorado:
- Tropical and subtropical birds, including parrots
- Tropical and subtropical fishes, including goldfish and koi
- Tropical and non-native subtropical lizards, frogs, snakes, and toads
- Venomous snakes need a license and proof of commercial use
- Marine vertebrates and invertebrates
- Tropical and non-native subtropical turtles
- Alligators and crocodiles require a commercial wildlife park license
- Four or less of reptiles and amphibians can be held in captivity, provided that no more than 12 in the aggregate may be possessed at any time
These are legal non-mammals: plains spadefoot, Woodhouse’s toad, Western chorus frog, painted turtle, Western box turtle, Sagebrush lizard, tree lizard, side-blotched lizard, prairie and plateau lizards, bull snake, Western terrestrial garter snake, plains garter snake, lesser earless lizard, Western whiptail, racer, and Western hognose snake.
Alternative livestock, like elk and fallow deer, are licensed by the Department of Agriculture.
The other mammals that are legal to own in Colorado include: African pygmy hedgehog, red kangaroo, short-tailed opossum, sugar gliders, Bennett wallaby, Dama wallaby, swamp wallaby, and wallaroo.
Making a Pet of a Wild Animal
Whether a bear, elk or a raccoon, trying to domesticate a wild animal almost always ends up poorly for the animal and the human. What it comes down to is a difference between when a wild animal becomes accustomed to humans and when a wild animal imprints on people.
A wild animal that is used to being around humans but is not tame can survive in the wild. But a wild animal who imprints on people cannot. Imprinting is permanent learning that takes place when wild animals are tamed by humans.
For example, the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, are accustomed to people and wander through the town, the golf course, and nearby neighborhoods. Although these elk pose a potential danger, the elk usually keep a safe distance from people and will flee when people try to get too close to them. On the other hand, an elk that imprints on humans is more dangerous than a mountain lion or bear because it no longer knows how to act like an elk.
Imprinting on their parents very early, wild animals need to learn these survival skills in the wild. When a wild animal becomes dependent on humans, it will never be able to fully develop the skills needed to live in its own environment. The animal will not know how to take care of itself if it’s released into the wild or how to interact with members of its own species.
If a wild baby animal is raised by humans, it may go well for a while, but as it grows up, things can quickly change with the animal becoming aggressive and dangerous. Once imprinting occurs, your options to do what’s best for the animal becomes very limited. The wild animal eventually becomes unmanageable, often at sexual maturity. Many people just let the animal go, but it will usually seek out another human habitat because that’s all it knows. But this can end up disastrous for both animals and humans.
A wild animal has to know to stay away from human contact, have the ability to understand the danger, and hunt its natural prey or seek food sources. Its survival depends on it. Once an animal imprints on people, it became impossible for the animal to ever return to the wild. It has become dependent on humans and no longer knows how to be a wild animal. Even those wild animals raised by people from babies still have moments when animal instinct takes over and may act aggressively. If a wild animal expects food from people it begins to expect food from every person and can become aggressive if it’s not fed. There are many cases of wild animals who were raised as pets who end up killing their owners.
With this in mind, Colorado has made it illegal in Colorado to feed big game, and possess or transport wildlife that’s sick, orphaned or injured. Wildlife rehabilitation permits are only given to people who have adequate training and facilities to care for distressed wildlife in a manner that minimizes human contact and focuses on that wildlife being returned successfully to the wild. Bottom line, you can’t have wildlife as pets, not even if you “rescue” an injured squirrel or baby bird that’s fallen out of its nest.
The goals of the state are to protect the wildlife and domestic livestock, as well as the public’s health and safety. Many of Colorado’s native wildlife species can be dangerous and spread diseases to people and other animals. That’s why our specialists at Animal Removal of Denver caution that you should find out what animals in Colorado can be domesticated. Contact us today if you need help removing any wildlife from your home or property.