Skip to content

People Outraged By Yellowstone Park Rangers Killing an Abandoned Calf

A visitor interfered with a bison calf, causing its herd to reject rangers attempts at reuniting with it.

Yellowstone National Park is asking visitors to "respect wildlife by giving them room to roam" after a newborn bison calf was separated from its herd and later died following an encounter with an unidentified park goer.

In the days that have followed, a team of park rangers took to Instagram to share their tips and tricks for visiting Yellowstone this summer, one of which included keeping a measurable amount of distance from wildlife. Rangers advise visitors to stay a minimum of 25 yards away from bison. The warning comes on the heels of another cautionary message from Yellowstone park officials concerning cow elk, which are known to be "unpredictable" and sometimes "aggressive."

One of the best parts about visiting national parks is that you're able to safely admire wildlife in their natural habitat. However, getting in close contact with an animal could lead to serious repercussions for both humans and wildlife. And situations can escalate when newborn animals are involved, as was the case on the evening of May 20, 2023.

According to the park's press release, the incident occurred in Yellowstone's northeast corner. "An unidentified white male in his 40-50's, wearing a blue shirt and black pants, approached a newborn bison calf in Lamar Valley near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek. The calf had been separated from its mother when the herd crossed the Lamar River. As the calf struggled, the man pushed the calf up from the river and onto the roadway. Visitors later observed the calf walk up to and follow cars and people," the statement reads.

Despite numerous attempts, park rangers were unable to reunite the calf with its herd. Officials explained that interference by humans "can cause wildlife to reject their offspring." Unfortunately, this was the case and after witnessing the calf's "hazardous" threat to park goers, the calf was euthanized.

READ THIS NEXT: Yellowstone National Park's Roads Are "Melting"—Here's What That Means for Visitors.

The disturbing situation has left people divided, and many are taking to Yellowstone's Instagram page to voice their concerns and frustrations over the park's decision to kill the calf. Several people are asking for more information, specifically regarding the unidentified visitor's role in all this.

"Was the man trying to save the baby from drowning, or is he the reason it got separated from its mom? If he was trying to rescue it from drowning after the herd moved on I can see how it would be difficult to fight the urge to help it," one person commented.

Meanwhile, others are calling a change in laws and regulations, which Yellowstone states "prohibits the transport of bison out of Yellowstone unless those bison are going to meat processing or scientific research facilities."

Additionally, Instagram commenters want to know why the calf wasn't taken to a zoo or sanctuary. The Instagram post has amassed over 4,300 comments, and Yellowstone has since put out another statement explaining their decision.

For more up-to-date travel information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

"This is a conversation that's difficult to have on social media. But it's important to understand that national parks are very different than animal sanctuaries or zoos. We made the choice we did not because we are lazy, uncaring, or inexpert in our understanding of bison biology. We made the choice we did because national parks preserve natural processes. By this we mean undomesticated wildlife and the ecosystems they both depend on and contribute to," officials wrote in the comments.

They added, "Every day in national parks, some animals die so that others may live. In fact, as many as 25 percent of the bison calves born this spring will die, but those deaths will benefit other animals by feeding everything from bears and wolves to birds and insects. Allowing this cycle of life to play out aligns most closely with the stewardship responsibility entrusted to us by the American people. Unfortunately, the calf's behavior on roads and around people was hazardous, so rangers had to intervene: but the calf's body was left on the landscape."

Yellowstone National Park noted that the incident is currently under investigation. If you have information on the visitor who interacted with the calf, rangers are asking that you call the Yellowstone National Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132 or email them at [email protected].

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
Filed Under