Baby bison euthanised after Yellowstone National Park visitor picks it up

The unidentified white male disturbed the newborn bison calf, leading it to be shunned from the herd. Credit: National Parks Service

A newborn bison calf in Yellowstone National Park in the US has been killed after a man picked it up.Park officials feared the animal would be shunned by its heard and euthanised the animal rather than allow it to be a hazard to visitors.

Yellowstone National Park released a photo of the man disturbing the bison calf near a river.

Law enforcement officers are asking the public for information on the unidentified male.

If he is found guilty of any wrongdoing, he could face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 (more than £4,000 fine), Yellowstone National Park told CNN.

The charge would include disturbing wildlife, disorderly conduct, and approaching wildlife, the park added.

Park officials quickly defended the decision to kill the newborn bison.

“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,” the park said in a statement on Twitter.

Park officials' options for dealing with the animal were limited, according to the statement, which said bison must be quarantined before being sent to conservation herds outside the park.

A bison calf abandoned and unable to care for itself is not a good candidate for quarantine, the statement said.

The calf became separated from its mother when the herd crossed the Lamar River in northeastern Yellowstone on Saturday.

The unidentified man pushed the struggling calf up from the river and onto a roadway, park officials said in a news release.

Human interference with young wildlife can cause animals to shun their offspring. Park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the calf with the herd but were unsuccessful.

A herd of bison grazes in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. Credit: AP

At one point, visitors saw the calf walking up to and following cars and people. This created a hazard, so park staff killed the animal, according to the news release.

It's the latest example of Yellowstone visitors getting in trouble or hurt after approaching bison.

Park officials euthanised a newborn bison after a similar incident in 2016, when a Canadian man and his son put the calf in their SUV, thinking they could rescue it.

The man pleaded guilty. He was fined $235 (£190) and ordered to pay $500 (£400) to the Yellowstone Park Foundation Wildlife Protection Fund.

Bison have gored several people in Yellowstone in recent years, often after they got too close to the animals.

Many of Yellowstone’s larger animals — including bison, which can run up to 35 mph (55 kilometers per hour) and weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) — are deceptively dangerous, even when they are just grazing or resting.

Park rules require visitors to keep at least 23 metres away from wildlife including bison, elk and deer, and at least 91 meters away from bears and wolves.

The calf's body was left on the landscape, similar to the 25% or so of Yellowstone's newborn bison that don't survive, park officials said in the Twitter statement.

“Those deaths will benefit other animals by feeding 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,” the statement said.

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