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Yellowstone Tourist Attempts to Rescue Baby Bison – with Tragic Results

Stop if you’ve heard this before . . .

On Sunday, May 20, a tourist visiting Yellowstone National Park took it upon themself to save a struggling baby bison. While well-intentioned, that action ultimately led to the calf’s death.

Carrie Paulson posted an account of the incident in the Facebook group Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots.

According to her, the baby bison – likely only a few days old – was attempting to cross the swollen Lamar River near Soda Butte Creek. The calf was temporarily separated from its mother, which was waiting and calling to its offspring on the opposite bank.

That’s when an unidentified person dragged the baby bison out of the river. Once out of the water, they petted the calf, which was “shivering and clearly in distress.”

When park rangers arrived from the Lamar Valley ranger station, the calf was wandering from car to car (possibly driven by instinct to follow big things. Unfortunately, the mother bison was not crossing the river to retrieve the calf (likely because of the sizeable crowd gathering to observe it), and the calf showed no interest in crossing the river.

The rangers’ multiple attempts to reunite the two were unsuccessful.

Another member of the Facebook group posted details on the incident’s unfortunate conclusion.

After an hour of deliberation, the rangers decided the best course of action was also the most tragic. The calf was euthanized with a gunshot. Even sadder, the mother remained on the opposite side of the river the entire time.

In such instances, the likelihood that a mother and calf will successfully reunite is low. The calf’s behavior would most likely result in a vehicle impact – or an easy meal for the plentiful predators in Lamar Valley.

The tourist responsible is an unidentified white male in his 40-50s, wearing a blue shirt and black pants.

This incident is under investigation. Anyone who was in Lamar Valley on the evening of May 20, 2023, and may have information that could help the investigation into the incident is encouraged to contact the Yellowstone National Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132 or

This kind of incident is the most egregious example of human interference in the wild environment of Yellowstone National Park.

Bison calves often struggle with river crossings, but most succeed after a considerable effort. But regardless of the outcome, humans should vehemently avoid any intervention in a natural cycle.

A similar incident gained infamy in 2016 when a couple placed a newborn bison in the back of their vehicle, thinking it was abandoned. Their reasoning came from their work on a farm in Africa. The couple said they often rescue orphaned wildlife. Collecting the calf, they believed, meant park rangers could rehabilitate it with another mother.

That calf was also euthanized.

If this tourist had not intervened, the calf might have died. It also might have lived and continued thriving in the park. Through their actions, this visitor ensured death was the only outcome for the young bison.

Yellowstone National Park officials have not released a statement on the May 20 incident.

Yellowstone Reminds Visitors: Keep Away From and No Touching Wildlife

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