Putting Yellowstone Baby Bison in Car Cost Animal Its Life

Newborn bison calf May 10, 2014.

Bison calf 

Fearing a baby bison was too cold, two tourists made the bad decision in mid-May 2016 to place the bison in their car. The move cost the baby its life.

After the tourists brought the bison to a ranger station, park rangers returned it to the location where it had been. They repeatedly tried to reunite it with its mother, but the mother rejected it, possibly because of human intervention. As the baby bison wandered near cars and approached people, park rangers were forced to euthanize it.

“In terms of human safety, this was a dangerous activity because adult animals are very protective of their young and will act aggressively to defend them,” Yellowstone National Park officials wrote in a statement. “In addition, interference by people can cause mothers to reject their offspring.”

Some familiar with the incident are questioning why the National Park Service had to euthanize the animal rather than rescue it or donate it to a ranch. Because bison can carry a contagious disease called brucellosis, park officials have told media outlets that the bison calf would have had to spend months in quarantine to be monitored for the disease before it could be transported elsewhere. At present, approved quarantine facilities do not exist in the park, nor does the park have the infrastructure set up to care for baby animals. Furthermore, because the baby bison was rejected by its mother and herd, it's possible a herd outside of the park would reject it, as well.

In light of this incident, as well as one earlier this spring when a tourist approached a bison to pet it, park officials want to remind visitors that park regulations require visitors stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all wildlife, including bison, elk and deer, and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury and even death for visitors.

“The safety of park animals, as well as human safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple rules,” Yellowstone official say.


Bison walking through deep snow near Tower Junction in March. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco.

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