Yellowstone Bison Calf Euthanized After Tourists Put It In Their Car To ‘Keep It Warm’

A Yellowstone bison calf got a free ride from some tourists on Monday, who picked him up and placed him in the back of their SUV.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming has strict rules for visitors to stay at least 25 yards away from all wild animals such as the bison calf. The rule is extended to a distance of 100 yards for wolves and moose.

But the father and son travelers, who were from another country, thought the calf looked cold. According to the East Idaho News, the helpful duo hoisted the baby bison into the back of their SUV and drove him to the ranger’s station.

Karen Richardson of Victor, Idaho, was chaperoning a group of fifth graders on a field trip to Yellowstone and posted a photo of the bovine passenger on Facebook.

“They were demanding to speak with a ranger. They were seriously worried that the calf was freezing and dying.”

Rob Heusevelet, the father of one of the students, told the would-be rescuers they could be in trouble for having handled the animal.

“They didn’t care. They sincerely thought they were doing a service and helping that calf by trying to save it from the cold.”

The tourists didn’t have to worry. In an illustration of just how tough a young bison is, National Geographic posted a video on Mother’s Day about a calf who faced down a hungry wolf.

The calf first became separated from his mother while crossing a river, when the current carried him away. He spent the night all alone, wet and stranded on a gravel shoal.

An opportunistic wolf came along for what looked like was sure to be a veal dinner. But the baby bison charged the hungry carnivore, in true, grown-up bison, head-butting style.

As the video illustrates, bison are notoriously protective parents. Tourist-bison encounters at Yellowstone are on the rise, as crowds visiting the park take chances to get a picture or try to pet the buffalo.

This video is an example of how quickly things can go wrong in a photo-taking outing with a bison.

The bison, having just been named America’s National Mammal, is a popular “bucket list” sight at Yellowstone. But the park service warns that the animals deserve respect.

“Every year, visitors are gored and some have been killed. Bison can sprint three times faster than humans can run. They are unpredictable and dangerous.”

2015 produced a spike in bison attacks. There were five attacks in a year’s time, which is not a record but still more than usual. Park ranger John McCurdy commented that it was “year of the bison.”

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that from 2000 to 2015, at least 25 bison made contact with humans, with results that ranged from headbutting to full-out goring.

The influx of selfie-takers is a problem, according to the park service. People want to get too close to the animals in order to fit them into the frame of a photo. Park gift shops now sell selfie sticks for $25 in order to encourage people to stay far enough away from the animals while taking pictures.

The park service is very serious about maintaining distance between human guests and bison residents. On Monday, sure enough, the tourist pair were ticketed for giving the Yellowstone bison a ride. The park service delivered the calf back to the area where it was originally found. Presumably, it was reunited with its mother.

Update:

This bison calf was rejected by its herd due to the handling by humans. A Monday statement by the park service said that the calf had to be euthanized, as it kept approaching people and wandering onto roadways.

[Image via Julie Lubick/Shutterstock]