Yellowstone park rangers have seen a lot of strange things, including a number of people injured last year for attempting to take selfies with wild animals. However, the attempted kidnapping of a bison calf is not something even they encounter all that often. According to Fox 4, two tourists visiting Yellowstone National Park last week decided to capture and load a bison calf into their vehicle. Their reasoning? It looked cold.
Park officials routinely warn visitors to avoid getting too close to the wildlife, but putting a bison calf in the back of your SUV? That’s something new entirely.
“They didn’t care,” Rob Heusevelet told East Idaho News. “They sincerely thought they were doing a service and helping that calf by trying to save it from the cold.”
Heusevelet was one of several parents chaperoning a school trip when he saw the tourists—a father and son—arrive at a ranger station and demand to speak with park officials. Another parent, Karen Richardson, took a photo of the bison in the back of the SUV. According to witnesses, the tourists even went so far as to accuse the park of improperly treating the animals. Rangers promptly responded that capturing a bison calf and transporting it to another section of the park is not only a violation of common sense, it could also lead to some serious consequences.
Rangers followed the tourists back to where they picked up the calf and had it released. The father and son were later issued a ticket, but officials did note that they were from another country and may not have been familiar with North American wildlife. Familiar or not, removing a bison calf is not a very wise thing to do. Not only is it illegal, but it could potentially jeopardize the calf. Helping a wild animal—especially the very young— could do more harm than good. In this case, removing the calf could have separated it from its mother, requiring the calf to be rehabilitated by humans. Luckily for the tourists, at least they managed to spirit the calf away without attracting the attention of the herd.
Bison are one of the most notorious animals in the park, injuring and sometimes even killing visitors who get too close. Bison do not like getting crowded, and are quite peaceful at a distance. The species was recently named America’s national mammal, and Yellowstone is one of the best places to see these majestic animals in the wild.
“Unlike most bison in the West, which are managed as domestic livestock, Yellowstone’s population has thousands of animals that all exhibit wild behavior like their ancient ancestors,” the park stated on its website. “They are exposed to predators, severe environmental conditions, and show no evidence of any interbreeding with cattle. A symbol of wild America, the Yellowstone bison are an essential part of a complex ecosystem that is much larger than the national park.”