When visiting wildlife, one must always leave the area untouched and pure
One of the most important rules of visiting nature is to leave the area as if you had never been there. Someone broke that rule at Yellowstone National Park, which is located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho (96% of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming).
Yellowstone National Park rangers were forced to euthanize a newborn baby bison because an unidentified tourist decided to touch it. Apparently, his intentions were good. He was trying to help the baby bison get up a hill it was struggling to climb to prevent it from getting separated from its herd.
The baby bison's herd was crossing Lamar River over the weekend when the calf became stuck on the river bank, according to the press release from Yellowstone National Park. An unidentified man who was watching events unfold decided to get involved and tried to push the calf up the bank and onto the roadway.
"As the calf struggled, the man pushed the calf up from the river and onto the roadway," NPS said. "Visitors later observed the calf walk up to and follow cars and people."
The park rangers tried without success to reunite the baby bison with its herd, but the herd continuously rejected the calf due to the man's interference.
The rangers eventually decided to euthanize the calf as it was rejected by its mother and it also posed somewhat of a danger to tourists at the park, as it continued to approach cars pulling into the park.
NPS is investigating the incident and asking the public to share any relevant information to a tip line. The agency has yet to identify the man behind the incident, describing him as a "white male in his 40-50's, wearing a blue shirt and black pants."
An investigation into this case could lead to criminal charges. He could be charged with Class B misdemeanors, including disturbing wildlife, disorderly conduct (creating a dangerous situation), and approaching wildlife, according to Morgan Warthin, a spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park.
If found guilty of those charges, the man could face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine, Warthin told NPR.
Yellowstone has two breeding bison herds made up of over 5,900 animals at the last count in 2022. Yellowstone has been the only place in the U.S. to maintain a free-herding bison population since prehistoric times.
Yellowstone's herds were almost depleted by the late 1880s, due to poaching and hunting by the U.S. Army, as part of a federal campaign to eradicate Native American tribes in the area by taking away one of the main staples of their diets.
Today, tourists who venture to Yellowstone can see the bison herds year-round. Wyoming's Lamar Valley contains a multitude of overlapping rivers where bison can often be found. This area falls in the northeast corner of the park.
NPS has frequently defended its policy of not interfering in the natural death of animals on public lands, including orphaned offspring. They stand firm on allowing nature to take place without any human tampering with the land, plants, or animals.
"Our focus is on sustaining viable populations of native wildlife species, rather than protecting individual animals," reads an NPS webpage on the policy. "An animal's survival depends on its own daily decisions and natural selection."
This isn't the first time a bison calf was euthanized following human interference at Yellowstone in 2016. Edward O'Brien of Montana Public Radio reported that two tourists placed the calf in their car and drove it to a nearby park facility because they "thought the animal looked cold and uncomfortable."
The unidentified white male was in his 40s-50s and wore a blue shirt and black pants. The investigation is ongoing. If you were in Lamar Valley on the evening of May 20, 2023, and have information that could help this investigation, please contact the Yellowstone National Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132 or YELL_Tip@nps.gov.