Officials at Yellowstone National Park say they were forced to put down a newborn bison calf after another unfortunate encounter between a park visitor and wildlife, according to the National Park Service.
On the evening of May 20, a then-unidentified man disturbed a bison calf in the Wyoming portion of the park after it was separated from its mother and herd when crossing the Lamar River, the park service said in a news release.
“As the calf struggled, the man pushed the calf up from the river and onto the roadway,” the park service said.
The service that week released a photo of the man lifting the bison calf from the river. Eventually, authorities identified the man, and he pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wildlife before a federal magistrate judge, the US attorney’s office for Wyoming said.
The man was fined $500, ordered to make a $500 community service payment to a Yellowstone wildlife protection fund, and charged $40 in special assessment and processing fees.
Park regulations state that people need to stay at least 25 yards away from bison, elk and most other wildlife and 100 yards away from bears and wolves. Approaching wild animals can affect their well-being and their survival, NPS said.
After the May 20 encounter, the calf was seen by visitors walking up to and following both cars and people, creating a hazard for those nearby, NPS said.
“Interference by people can cause wildlife to reject their offspring,” the park service said. After park rangers failed in their attempt to reunite the calf with its herd, they decided to euthanize the calf as “it was abandoned by its herd and was causing a hazardous situation to approaching cars and people along the roadway,” NPS said.
Visitors at Yellowstone have previously interacted with bison and been injured severely, including at least three in May and June of 2022. In one instance, a 71-year-old woman was gored by a bison one day after another visitor was injured by different bison.