Two months after well-meaning tourists were shamed for their misguided attempt to rescue a baby bison in Yellowstone National Park, a federal investigation shows that a government wildlife expert made the same mistake.
Both incidents ended in the death of a bison calf. Only one, however, drew national attention and ridicule.
In May, Yellowstone officials euthanized a baby bison after two international visitors showed up at a ranger station with the calf in the trunk of their SUV, saying they thought it was cold. Park officials said they were forced to put the calf to death after attempts to reunite it with its herd failed.
Morgan Warthin of the National Park Service later called on visitors to respect wildlife and park regulations. “Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival,” she said in a statement.
As it turns out, mistaken attempts to help abandoned or sick wildlife are not above even the most informed of wildlife officials.
In May 2010, an unnamed Park Service supervisory natural resource specialist removed a sickly buffalo calf from Badlands National Park in South Dakota and brought it to his house, as detailed in an Interior Department report released this week.
The calf reportedly died at the employee’s home.
An investigation by the Office of Inspector General concluded that the calf’s removal was authorized by the park’s acting superintendent, but violated NPS policy as well as state and federal law. “The local police chief chose not to cite the supervisory natural resource specialist for the misdemeanor violation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined prosecution,” the report states.
Neither the park employee nor the superintendent is named in the report.
Christine Powell, an NPS spokeswoman, told The Washington Post in a statement Friday that the park is “reviewing the report” and appreciates the inspector general bringing the incident to light.
For their failed rescue attempt in Yellowstone, Shamash Kassam and his son received a hefty dose of what they felt was unfair criticism. Additionally, as part of his guilty plea for disturbing wildlife, Kassam was fined $235 and ordered to not “pick up any more bison.” He was also required to donate $500 to the park’s wildlife protection fund.