Yellowstone visitors picked up baby elk, drove it to police station: officials

FILE - A visitor to Yellowstone National Park touched an elk calf and loaded it into their car, the National Park Service claimed in a June 2023 press release. Jon G. Fuller / VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some recent visitors to Yellowstone National Park seem to be having difficulty keeping wildlife wild.

In yet another instance of a parkgoer getting too friendly with an animal, an unidentified guest to the Wyoming park touched an elk calf and loaded it into their personal vehicle.

The National Park Service included the incident — which occurred during Memorial Day weekend, the last weekend in May — in a press release urging tourists to keep their distance from Yellowstone’s wild animals.

The authority said the elk calf was placed in a car and driven on U.S. Highway 191 in the park. It was brought to the West Yellowstone, Mont., police department.

It is unclear why the elk calf was brought to police, or if the abductor was attempting to do what they thought was a good deed.

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“The elk later ran off into the forest and its condition is unknown,” the National Park Service wrote.

The incident is currently under investigation.

Last month, a man also seemingly attempted to help an animal when he handled a bison calf after it fell behind its herd and mother as they crossed the Lamar River. The man touched the bison and pushed it up from the river and onto the roadway in an attempt to hurry the animal along.

The National Park Service announced on May 23 that a newborn bison calf was euthanized after it was abandoned by its herd when a park visitor touched the wild animal. Photo credit: National Park Service

Park officials later said the bison calf had to be euthanized because it was rejected from its herd after being in contact with a human.

The man pleaded guilty on May 31 to intentionally disturbing wildlife and was charged a US$1,000 fine for handling the bison calf.

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“Interference by people can cause wildlife to reject their offspring,” the National Park Service explained in a separate press release. “Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival.”

Click to play video: 'Determining whether an animal is injured or orphaned'
Determining whether an animal is injured or orphaned

Also in May, two black bears were killed on the same day at Yellowstone when they were struck by separate vehicles driving through the park. Officials warned park guests to reduce driving speeds.

“The park calls on visitors to protect wildlife by understanding how their actions can negatively impact wildlife,” the National Park Service wrote. “Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in some cases, their survival. When an animal is near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, on a road, or in a developed area, leave it alone and give it space.”

Yellowstone National Park requires visitors to stay at least 25 yards (23 metres) away from all wildlife, including elk and bison. Bears and wolves should be given at least 100 yards (91 metres) of space.

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The National Park Service is encouraging all visitors to take the Yellowstone Pledge, which encourages people to act responsibly and safely around wildlife and set a good example for others.

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