The baby bison snapshot is eye-popping. The caramel-colored calf is standing on the gray upholstery inside a hatchback.

How could tourists pick up the calf without getting stomped and gored by angry bison cows?

As Gazette readers know, this story ended badly for the bison, which was euthanized, and for the visitors, who now face criminal charges.

The would-be calf rescuers reportedly put the animal in their vehicle because they thought it was cold and drove it to a park facility in the Lamar Valley. Rangers attempted to reunite the young bison with its herd, but it was rejected and began approaching vehicles on the road. Rangers euthanized it the day after the tourists picked it up.

Gazette online commenters were quick to heap criticism on those tourists, identified as a father and son from outside the United States. Other commenters blasted the National Park Service for killing the calf instead of finding it a home in captivity.

At best, this sad story is a compelling reminder for all of us to avoid approaching close to wildlife, especially baby animals. “If you care, leave them there,” sums up the reason to leave young wildlife alone.

That precaution applies not just to Yellowstone Park, but to the great outdoors of Montana and Wyoming. The Gazette has reported time and again on kind-hearted people who took home deer fawns or tried to rescue a moose calf.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks doesn’t raise deer or moose, so the young animals were euthanized. Those incidents sparked outrage against game wardens, rather than the folks who removed or fed the young ungulates. But the situations aren’t too different from last week’s baby bison pickup.

In managing wildlife, government agencies work toward healthy species populations. Wildlife are managed to prevent spread of illnesses, such as brucellosis and chronic wasting disease, and to keep populations within the carrying capacity of the land.

Mother Nature can be a harsh parent. That means the weak and orphaned individuals don’t survive.

In the May 9 bison pickup, no humans were injured. But bison account for more human injuries in Yellowstone than any other type of wildlife, according to NPS.

Just last week in Custer State Park, S.D., a woman who approached a bison bull too closely was gored in the abdomen and flown by helicopter ambulance to a hospital with injuries described as serious, but not life-threatening.

Last year, five Yellowstone visitors were seriously injured when they approached bison too closely, according to NPS. Yellowstone Park regulations require that visitors stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards (91 meters) away from bears and wolves.

Every vehicle coming into the park gets a bright gold warning flyer showing a bison tossing a photographer into the air.

When rangers are present, they enforce Yellowstone rules that require visitors to stay back from wildlife. But the ranger staff is limited and visitor numbers have grown from just over 3 million in 2008 to 4 million in 2015. A larger crowd is expected in Yellowstone this year for the National Park Service Centennial.

Yes, the NPS needs more rangers for visitor safety and other duties. But we locals — who know that wildlife can be unpredictable and dangerous — can help. Keep your distance and, if you see someone (most likely an out-of-stater) strolling up to pet a bison or snap a selfie with an elk, speak up with a friendly caution: I wouldn’t get that close, if I were you.

Remember: Bison can run three times faster than people can.



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