Yellowstone National Park officials are warning visitors to stay away from wildlife after two recent encounters that left a bison calf dead and an elk calf away from its herd.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, a group of visitors reportedly put an elk calf in their car, officials said Monday. It is believed the elk was picked up along Highway 191 in Yellowstone.
The young elk was then brought to the West Yellowstone Police Department in Montana.
Park officials say the elk ran into a nearby forest. It’s unclear what condition the elk is in, and the incident remains under investigation.
Yellowstone officials and West Yellowstone Police didn’t immediately respond to Nexstar’s inquiries for additional information.
The incident happened just days after a Hawaii man interacted with a bison calf that rangers were later forced to kill.
The man, Clifford Walters, recently pleaded guilty to disturbing the calf. He was seen approaching the animal, which had been separated from its mother as the herd crossed the Lamar River, and pushing the calf away from the river and onto a nearby roadway.
Visitors reported that the calf then walked up to and followed cars and people. Though Yellowstone rangers tried “repeatedly” to reunite the bison calf with its herd, their “efforts failed.”
“The calf was later killed by park staff because it was abandoned by the herd and causing a hazardous situation by approaching cars and people along the roadway,” authorities wrote in a news release. Authorities noted that there was no indication that the man acted maliciously.
Walters told The New York Times he was trying to save the calf from the river, saying it was struggling after being swept downstream.
“I couldn’t stand to see it die,” he told the outlet, calling his decision “an act of compassion.” Walters was ordered to pay a $500 fine, a $500 Community Service Payment to the Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, $30 in a special assessment, and a $10 processing fee.
Following both incidents and “some actions by visitors,” Yellowstone is warning visitors to protect the park’s wildlife.
Park regulations require visitors to remain at least 25 yards from all wildlife and at least 100 yards from bears and wolves. Violating those regulations could result in fines, or more seriously, injury and death.
Last year, a 25-year-old woman was tossed 10 feet into the air by a bison she approached while walking near Old Faithful. Less than two months later, a 71-year-old woman was gored by a bison she and her daughter “inadvertently approached” in Yellowstone. Two days earlier, a man was gored by a bison after it charged him and his family. Both individuals survived but suffered injuries.
Yellowstone officials note that if you see a visitor in person or online doing something that “might hurt them, others, or the park” to report it to a ranger or, if you’re in the park, dial 911.