A newborn bison calf has been killed in Yellowstone National Park after a visitor intentionally interfered as it tried to cross a river.
The unidentified middle aged man approached the calf on May 20 in Lamar Valley near the Lamar River and Soda Creek, the park said in a statement. The calf had been separated from its herd as it struggled to cross the river and it wasn’t with its mother at the time.
The man “intentionally disturbed” the calf and pushed it up from the river and onto the road. Witnesses to the incident then saw the calf approaching cars and people in the park.
The man’s actions ultimately caused the calf to become rejected by its herd, although park rangers tried to reunite the calf with the group many times with no success.
The park said the calf had to be euthanized after it had been abandoned by the herd as it was causing a “hazardous situation by approaching cars and people along the roadway.”
Approaching wild animals and interfering with them can drastically affect their well-being, the park said in a statement.
In Yellowstone National Park, visitors are required to stay at least 25 yards away from all wildlife, including bison. In the case of bears and wolves, it is 100 yards.
Those caught interfering will often be fined, but the consequences can be more serious. Approaching the animals can cause injuries and sometimes death. Bison are responsible for the more injuries in Yellowstone National Park than any other animal.
In Yellowstone, the bison population ranges from 2,300 to 5,500 animals. They are huge and can become aggressive if they feel threatened.
Although this bison was only a calf, interfering with young can still anger the species.
The National Park Service is investigating the incident and appealing for information from anyone in Lamar Valley on the evening of May 20.
In the news release posted to Facebook, some social media users asked the park service why the bison calf wasn’t sent to a sanctuary or cared for by people.
The park explained that federal and state regulations prohibit the transport of these animals out of Yellowstone.
“It’s important to understand that national parks are very different than animal sanctuaries or zoos. We made the choice we did not because we are lazy, uncaring, or inexpert in our understanding of bison biology. We made the choice we did because national parks preserve natural processes,” the park said.
“By this we mean undomesticated wildlife and the ecosystems they both depend on and contribute to. Every day in national parks, some animals die so that others may live. In fact, as many as 25% of the bison calves born this spring will die, but those deaths will benefit other animals by feeding everything from bears and wolves to birds and insects. Allowing this cycle of life to play out aligns most closely with the stewardship responsibility entrusted to us by the American people. Unfortunately, the calf’s behavior on roads and around people was hazardous, so rangers had to intervene: but the calf’s body was left on the landscape.”
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