The newest addition to my family is a little rabbit named Momo. Momo means “peach” in Japanese and she is definitely as sweet as one. I found her wandering around outside the Audubon nature center at Chatfield State Park last Monday. We’re going to check her for a microchip, but since there aren’t any houses close by, it seems likely someone may no longer have wanted her and decided to set her “free.”
While it might seem like a kind thing to release pets into the wild if you no longer want them or can no longer care for them, consider how cruel that is for the animal. Most pets are bred for captivity and don’t have the instincts to survive on their own out in nature. A blindingly white rabbit like Momo would’ve been coyote or fox chow very quickly if she didn’t get hit by a car or starve.
Also consider that animals living in captivity may have been exposed to diseases or bacteria that their wild brethren haven’t. Releasing captive animals into the wild then exposes those naive populations to things that could make them very sick or even cause death. A great example of this is the movement of North American Bullfrogs all around the world for food. While bullfrogs are resistant to the Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), many other frogs are not, and when the bullfrogs come in contact with those non-resistant frogs, the fungus spreads. The result of this has been a massive world-wide die off of many amphibians.
Finally, releasing pets into the wild can have major consequences if the animals released aren’t native to the area released. There are hundreds of cases of non-native animals being released, rapidly disseminating in the new environment, and either out-competing or eating native animals.
So no matter how much you think you’re doing your unwanted pet a favor by letting it go in nature, resist the urge. Instead, find a nature center, animal shelter, friend, relative, or acquaintance to take the animal. Momo thanks you.