They wanted the best, but got a fine: how not to save animals in national parks
When officials at national parks warn visitors not to disturb or mess with animals, some follow the advice and some don't. In any case, you have to pay for this, if not a person, then an animal. What happens when you touch animals in parks USA Today.
On Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29), tourists came across a newborn elk and decided to take it for a drive.
“During Memorial Day weekend, visitors placed a calf in their car and brought her newborn to the West Yellowstone, Montana Police Department,” officials said. “The elk later ran off into the woods and his condition is unknown.”
Even if the tourists tried to do a good deed, violators face serious punishment.
Yellowstone National Park requires visitors to "keep at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other animals, including bison and elk."
Those who break the law face fines and imprisonment.
death by man
In May, a man pleaded guilty to one count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wild animals. He received a $500 fine.
It all happened on May 20th.
Clifford Walters said he was trying to save a newborn bison when he made the decision to push him to the riverbank in Yellowstone National Park. The New York Times.
But in the end, such an encounter landed Walters in federal court. He was sentenced to pay a $500 fine, $500 community service to the Yellowstone Wildlife Fund, a $30 special contribution and a $10 case handling fee.
Walters, 78, said he believes the outcome of the case is fair. The charge against him carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5000 fine.
“The fine could have been much higher,” he said. “I would pay that much money to save a calf’s life.”
Walters, from Hawaii, said he and his wife were traveling through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming when they stopped to watch a herd of bison cross the Lamar River at the northeast corner of the park.
Walters said his wife was videotaping the herd when he spotted a newborn calf with its umbilical cord still attached, struggling on the bank, unable to put its hind legs on dry land.
“He was in the water, begging for help to get out,” he said. “He was swept downstream.”
Mr. Walters said he reacted instantly.
“I didn’t discuss this with my wife as I walked down the embankment,” he said. “I couldn’t watch a calf die.”
He said he pushed the calf up the bank, closer to the area where the cars were parked.
“I thought, if I can get him out of the water, maybe someone will come back and save him,” Walters said. “The calf was drowning and it had absolutely no chance if I didn’t.”
But Walters' plan didn't work. Visitors saw the calf approach and follow cars and people, according to the US Attorney's office. The statement said park rangers have repeatedly tried to reunite the animal with the herd, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.
The park staff then euthanized the calf because it had been abandoned by the herd and was "creating a dangerous situation by approaching cars and people on the roadway."
Walters later heard on a Montana radio station that park officials were looking for a man, believed to be in his 40s or 50s, who had contact with the bison.
He said he went to the ranger station in Yellowstone to turn himself in. Citing a notice of infringement issued to Walters, the U.S. Attorney's Office stated, "There was nothing in the report to suggest that Walters acted maliciously."
In a statement, Yellowstone National Park reminded visitors that approaching wild animals can "dramatically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival."
Bison have lived in the Yellowstone National Park area since prehistoric times. Although their numbers had dwindled to about two dozen in 1902, conservation efforts have helped restore the population, which now, according to the park, ranges from 2300 to 5500 individuals.
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Wild and unpredictable, shaggy, humpbacked animals have been known to attack park visitors. However, tourists often approached the animals, ignoring repeated warnings from authorities to stay away.
In 2018, a man was arrested after bullying a bison in Yellowstone. In 2016, a bison cub was euthanized after being placed in the back of an SUV and rejected by the herd. And in 2015, a woman was injured while trying to take a selfie next to a bison.
Walters said he recognizes his actions on May 20 as illegal.
“It was an act of compassion,” he said. “I really didn't think it would be a crime to save a cub. Everything happened so quickly, but I acted from the bottom of my heart.”
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