The children were playing in a field near their foothills home when they spotted the tiny ball of fur huddled in a culvert. It was an infant raccoon, still soaking wet from the previous night’s rainstorm. It couldn’t have weighed more than a pound. Thinking the poor creature was orphaned, the children carried it home and convinced their mom to let them care for it.
At first, the raccoon made a wonderful pet. It was sweet, friendly, cuddly and playful. That didn’t last long.
The raccoon began to grow larger and larger. Soon, it hit puberty, with its hormones raging and moods turning ugly. The animal got loose in the house and ripped everything in its path to shreds—pillows, shoes, toys, and clothes. It snarled without provocation. It attacked and bit the family dog. Then one day, the raccoon bit a neighbor child. Fortunately the child received only minor injuries.
Much to the family’s surprise, it’s illegal to own raccoons in Colorado. These wild animals carry rabies and other diseases, and cannot be vaccinated. Consequently, the raccoon was turned over to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and had to be destroyed.
If you think having a wild animal for a pet would be fun, think again. This raccoon nightmare happens only too frequently in Colorado. And, the story is often replayed for families who adopt other wildlife species.
More people are becoming interested these days in owning exotic animals as pets. However, Colorado takes a conservative stance on private ownership of wildlife. This page (taken from the brochure with the same name) will explain state laws and regulations governing wildlife as pets—what’s legal and what's illegal to own, and why.
In general, it is illegal to own wildlife in Colorado. You just cannot remove a wild animal from the woods and take it home. As a public resource, wildlife belongs to the state of Colorado, to all citizens.
In addition, there are numerous species you cannot have as pets, many of which are exotic or non-native animals. And then there are some animals you can have, but only with a specific license from the state.
There are many good reasons for these regulations, as complex as they may seem. Regulating wild animals falls under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Department of Health and the state Department of Agriculture. These agencies have adopted regulations with three main goals: ensuring public health and safety; protecting domestic livestock; and protecting the state's wildlife and wildlife resources.
From the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s perspective, Colorado’s wild animals should stay wild. That’s the philosophy behind prohibiting people from owning wildlife. Not only are many of our native wildlife species potentially dangerous, like predators, they can spread diseases—to people and domestic animals.
Imported and exotic species brought into Colorado are regulated as well. Some are legal with permits; some are prohibited. The reasoning behind the regulations center on health and safety issues, primarily to prevent spreading diseases to people, domestic pets, livestock, and native wildlife.
The regulations also are aimed at protecting all animals from cruelty through negligence, overwork, mistreatment, or lack of care.