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Man pleads guilty to disturbing Yellowstone bison calf that later had to be killed by rangers

FILE – A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. American bison, also known as buffalo, have bounced back from their near extinction due to commercial hunting in the 1800s. But they remain absent from most of the grasslands they once occupied, and many tribes have struggled to restore their deep historical connections to the animals. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson, File)

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. (NEXSTAR) – A Hawaii man has pleaded guilty to disturbing a bison calf Yellowstone National Park rangers were later forced to kill earlier this month, the park announced Wednesday.

The man, identified as Clifford Walters, was seen approaching the calf, which had been separated from its mother when the herd crossed the Lamar River, on Saturday, May 20. He then allegedly pushed the calf away from the river and onto a nearby roadway.

According to Yellowstone visitors, the calf then walked up to and followed cars and people.

Park rangers tried “repeatedly” to reunite the bison calf with its herd but “these efforts failed,” Yellowstone officials said earlier this month.

“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.

Walters pleaded guilty to one count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife before a U.S. magistrate judge on Wednesday. According to park officials, Walters has been charged a $500 fine, a $500 Community Service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 special assessment, and a $10 processing fee.

Authorities noted that there was no indication that Walters acted maliciously.

Still, 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.


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