Yellowstone bison euthanized after being touched by park guest: NPR
Hellen Jack/National Park Service
Yellowstone National Park rangers have euthanized a newborn bison after a visitor touched the animal, trying to help it catch up with its herd, the National Park Service said Tuesday.
The herd was crossing the Lamar River on Saturday evening when the calf was separated from its mother on the river bank, according to a news release from the agency. A man observing the scene approached the animal with apparent rescue intentions.
“As the calf struggled, the man pushed the calf out of the river and onto the causeway,” NPS said. “Later, visitors observed the calf approaching and following cars and people.”
Park rangers tried several times to reunite the calf with the herd, but the herd resisted.
Rangers later euthanized the calf, saying its persistence in approaching cars posed a danger to guests, according to NPS.
The NPS is investigating the incident and asking the public to share any relevant information with a tip line. The agency has yet to identify the man behind the incident, describing him as a “white male in his 40s or 50s, wearing a blue shirt and black pants.”
Yellowstone requires visitors to stay at least 25 meters away from its two breeding bison herds, which collectively contained 5,900 animals at last count in 2022. The park is the only place in the contiguous United States to have maintained a population of bison in continuous freedom since prehistoric times.
Yellowstone’s herds were nearly poached to extinction in the late 1800s. Today, park visitors can view the animals almost year-round and from the road in places like Wyoming. Lamar Valley, a confluence of rivers in the northeast corner of the park.
The NPS has frequently defended its policy of not intervening in the natural death of animals on public lands, including orphaned offspring.
“Our goal is to maintain viable populations of native wildlife species, rather than to protect individual animals,” reads an NPS webpage on the policy. “An animal’s survival depends on its own day-to-day decisions and natural selection.”
NPS did not immediately respond to NPR’s inquiry into whether the man could face charges for handling the animal.