Helen Jack / National Park Service
Yellowstone National Park rangers euthanized a newborn bison calf trying to help her catch up with her herd after a visitor touched the animal. the National Park Service said Tuesday.
According to a press release from the agency, the herd was crossing the Lamar River on Saturday evening when the calf became separated from its mother on the river bank. A man watching the scene approached the animal with apparent rescue intent.
“As the calf was struggling, the man pushed the calf out of the river and onto the road,” the NPS said. “Visitors later observed that the calf approaches and chases cars and people.”
Park rangers repeatedly tried to reunite the calf with the herd, but the herd resisted.
According to the NPS, rangers later euthanized the calf, saying its persistence in approaching cars was a danger to guests.
NPS is investigating the incident and is asking the public to share Any relevant information to the tip line. The agency has not yet identified the man behind the incident, describing him as “a white male in his 40-50s, wearing a blue shirt and black pants”.
Yellowstone requires that visitors stay at least 25 yards from its two breeding bison herds, which are collectively contained 5,900 animals at last count in 2022. The park is the only place in the contiguous US to have maintained a continuous free-ranging bison population since prehistoric times.
In the late 1800s Yellowstone’s herds were near extinction. Today, park guests can see the animals almost year-round and by road in places like Wyoming Lamar Valley, the confluence of rivers in the northeast corner of the park.
The NPS has often defended its policy of not interfering with the natural death of animals on public lands, including orphaned progeny.
“Our focus is on maintaining 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 daily decisions and natural selection.”
NPS did not immediately respond to NPR’s inquiry into whether the man could face charges for handling the animal.