YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Yellowstone National Park (YNP) issued a response Tuesday detailing its decision to euthanize a bison calf that was touched by a visitor instead of caring for it or sending it to a sanctuary.

The explaination was provided in response to an incident that occurred on May 20 when a man was photographed handling a newborn bison calf within the park. The incident resulted in the calf being rejected by the herd and later killed.

According to YNP, they would not transport the calf out of the park because federal and state regulations prohibit the transport of bison out of Yellowstone unless those bison are going to meat processing or scientific research facilities.

While the park does have a quarantine facility to start conservation herds elsewhere, the use of quarantine for a newborn calf that’s abandoned and unable to care for itself is not a good candidate for quarantine.

“…it’s important to understand that national parks are very different than animal sanctuaries or zoos,” said YNP. “We made the choice we did not because we are lazy, uncaring or inexpert in our understanding of bison biology. We made the choice we did because national parks preserve natural processes. By this we mean undomesticated wildlife and the ecosystems they both depend on and contribute to.”

The park added that animal death is an everyday occurrence in the national parks. When animals die, it allows others to live.

“In fact, as many as 25% of the bison calves born this spring will die, but those deaths will benefit other animals by feeding everything from bears and wolves to birds and insects. Allowing this cycle of life to play out aligns most closely with the stewardship responsibility entrusted to us by the American people.”

In Tuesday’s incident, the calf’s behavior on the road and around people was deemed hazardous by park officials so rangers were required to intervene and kill the calf. However, the calf’s body was left on the landscape to allow for species in the park to feed off of the carcass.

The park is asking that anyone who was in Lamar Valley on May 20 and has information about the incident, contact the Yellowstone National Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132 or

More information about when Yellowstone staff intervene in a natural process and why is available here.