The bison is our new national mammal, but that lofty designation doesn't save the species from the resounding stupidity of humans.
Last week, tourists at Yellowstone National Park saw a bison calf in the park. They got worried about it being alone, put it in their trunk, and tried to take it to a park ranger to help the animal. That was exactly the wrong thing to do.
On Facebook, Yellowstone confirmed the incident in a detailed post, noting that under the circumstances, they had to euthanize the calf.
interference by people can cause mothers to reject their offspring. In this case, park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the newborn bison calf with the herd. These efforts failed. The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway.
The tourists in question got a $110 initial fine, but the investigation is still ongoing. People on Facebook asked why the calf couldn't have been cared for or sent to a facility that could have cared for them instead of being put down. Unfortunately, bison are a potential carrier of a bacterial disease called brucellosis which can pass from infected animals to healthy livestock and even humans. Federal regulations aimed at stopping the spread of the disease left the park with few options. Park officials said:
In order to ship the calf out of the park, it would have had to go through months of quarantine to be monitored for brucellosis. No approved quarantine facilities exist at this time, and we don't have the capacity to care for a calf that's too young to forage on its own. Nor is it the mission of the National Park Service to rescue animals: our goal is to maintain the ecological processes of Yellowstone. Even though humans were involved in this case, it is not uncommon for bison, especially young mothers, to lose or abandon their calves. Those animals typically die of starvation or predation.
Yes, nature is cruel. But we don't have to make it worse. Next time you're in a national park, look at the bison, but please, don't touch.