YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (ABC4) — A Hawaii man has pleaded guilty to intentionally disturbing wildlife after helping an infant bison out of a river at Yellowstone National Park.
The man, identified as Clifford Walters, pleaded guilty to one count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife on May 31, according to a news release from the U.S. Dept. of Justice District of Wyoming.
While in Lamar Valley near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek, Walters allegedly approached a struggling newborn bison calf that had been separated from its mother when the herd crossed the river.
The calf was reportedly struggling to get up the riverbank, so Walters pushed the calf up from the river and onto the roadway, the release states.
Later on, the calf was reportedly walking up to visitors, following cars and people. Park rangers tried to reunite the infant bison with the herd, but they were unable to do so, the release states.
Officials say park staff was forced to euthanize the calf because it had been abandoned by its herd, and was causing a “hazardous situation” by approaching cars and people by the road.
“There was nothing in the report that revealed Mr. Walters acted maliciously,” the release states.
Yellowstone National Park officials are reminding the public that approaching wild animals can “drastically affect their well-being,” and that park regulations require people stay “at least 25 yards” away from all wildlife.
In this case, the incident resulted in the calf’s death.
“The safety of these animals, as well as human safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple rules,” the release states.
“Many of you are asking why Yellowstone would euthanize a bison calf instead of caring for it or sending it to a sanctuary,” a release states. Federal and state regulations reportedly prohibit the transport of bison out of Yellowstone unless those bison are going to meat processing or scientific research facilities.