Adorable Baby Elk Left on Arizona Front Doorstep for 'Daycare'

An elk calf was left on a doorstep by its mom in Pine, Arizona, last Tuesday. Fearing the cute little guy had been abandoned, the homeowners contacted the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) for advice.

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The baby elk sat on the doorstep. Arizona Game & Fish Department

It turns out that the calf was absolutely fine and in no danger. Elk mothers often leave their young for a few hours at a time while they forage for food for both of them. However, they usually drop their charges off in a slightly more serene environment like a grassy meadow, read a Facebook post by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"Mom left it there for 'daycare' in the early morning, and came back to pick it up after lunch," the responding officer said in a statement.

Female elk will move away from the rest of the herd to give birth, and stay on their own for around a month until the calf is strong enough to join the others. This is thought to keep the calf safe from predators like bears, coyotes, mountain lions and wolves: newborn calves are scentless and have a unique spotting pattern that may keep them camouflaged as they lie still amongst the grass.

Calves will drink their mother's milk until they are around two months old, after which they start to eat vegetation as well. The calf left on the Arizona doorstep still had his spots, meaning it was defenseless as you can get, and needed to be watched until his mom came back for him.

"The mother left it there because it was not disturbed, wild animals do not generally view houses as threats," Henrik Thurfjell, a researcher at the Swedish Agricultural University, SLU Uppsala, told Newsweek.

The AZGFD said it has responded to several situations so far this year where people who have found elk calves in strange places like their doorsteps had already moved them from where they were left bedded down, which makes it very difficult to reunite them with their mother.

adult elk
Stock image: an adult elk. iStock / Getty Images Plus

If the mother happens to be watching from a distance, she may become aggressive in attempting to defend her young from the perceived danger, potentially putting the person trying to help in danger.

"AZGFD urges Arizonans to leave baby wildlife—including elk calves—alone. If you encounter an animal that appears to be sick or injured, is unresponsive or lethargic, please contact your nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility or call your local AZGFD office first," the AZGFD said in a Facebook post.