Those shaggy-haired, shoulder-humped bison roaming Yellowstone National Park have lived in the area since prehistoric times, surviving migration, predators, disease, development.
But can they survive tourists? Despite signs in the park and fliers handed out to visitors warning them about being gored by the horned bison, tourists just can’t seem to stay the officially required 25 yards away. They get out of cars and snap selfies with bison, scurrying back only when the animal takes off after them. (In the good-to-know category, bison are significantly faster sprinters than humans.) Last year, five people were seriously injured by bison at Yellowstone.
Recently, an interaction cost a bison its life. When tourists spotted a newborn bison calf seemingly shivering from cold, they plucked it from the roadside like a helpless hitchhiker, put it in the back of their SUV and took it to a ranger facility “because of their misplaced concern for the animal’s welfare,” said a Park Service official. Human interference can cause a mother to reject a calf, and in this case, park rangers were unsuccessful in getting the bison herd to take the calf back in. Ultimately, it had to be euthanized.
Those people were trying to help. Others like the thrill of recklessness — how close can you get to a dangerous animal and live to upload the selfie? For many of us, it’s that we’re urban creatures starved for interaction with animals more exotic than our cats and dogs.
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But wild creatures need to be left alone — if not for our survival then certainly for theirs.
The above editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times.