Federal officers in Yellowstone National Park are trying to identify a man who they say “intentionally disturbed” a newborn bison calf and that his actions led to a series of problems that resulted in the death of the calf.
According to Tuesday’s statement, the incident occurred on May 20 after the calf had been separated from its mother as their herd crossed the Lamar River. The man — identified as a white male in his 40s or 50s — tried to help the struggling calf by pushing it from the river to the roadway.
However, the calf began approaching people and vehicles afterward, which caused hazardous conditions on the roadway. Officials explained that the human interactions ultimately led to the calf’s mother and herd rejecting it. As a result, park staff had to euthanize it.
News of the killing led many people to ask on social media if it was absolutely necessary. In response, Yellowstone officials explained that it was.
“We made the choice we did not because we are lazy, uncaring, or inexpert in our understanding of bison biology,” the statement says. “We made the choice we did because national parks preserve natural processes.”
Officials said due to the calf’s age and behavior, it was a poor candidate for quarantine and later reintroduction. They added that about a quarter of all bison calves born this spring won’t survive the season.
“Allowing this cycle of life to play out aligns most closely with the stewardship responsibility entrusted to us by the American people,” the statement says.
Officials stressed that humans approaching wildlife can drastically alter the animal’s well-being and survivability.
According to park regulations, people are advised to stay at least 25 yards away from animals like bison and elk, and at least 100 yards from bears and wolves.
For interacting with wildlife, the man could face jail time, a fine, and/or be banned from the park, officials say.