A French Canadian received six months of probation after pleading guilty Thursday to putting a bison calf in his car at Yellowstone National Park because he thought the animal was cold.
Shamash Kassam should pay $500 to the Yellowstone Park Foundation Wildlife Protection Fund, federal magistrate Mark Carman ordered at the Yellowstone Justice Center. Kassam will also serve six months of unsupervised probation, as well as pay a $200 fine.
Park officials cited Kassam on May 17 for disturbing wildlife. According to the citation, Kassam put the bison calf in his car because it was “wet and shivering” and drove to a ranger station. Yellowstone officials later euthanized the bison calf after the human interaction caused the animal to be rejected by its herd.
Kassam told a park ranger he saw the baby bison in the middle of the road near Buffalo Ranch, according to the citation. He said he did not see any other bison in the vicinity and he waited 20 minutes to see if any adult bison would come back for the calf. Kassam said the animal appeared to be seeking warmth from his car’s engine.
Kassam told the park ranger he picked up the calf because otherwise “it would have been roadkill,” the citation states. When the ranger made contact with Kassam at the Buffalo Ranch, he saw the calf lying in the back of Kassam’s Toyota Sequoia.
The park ranger told Kassam that park visitors are not permitted to intervene with wildlife and that by removing the calf he was preventing the mother from locating it and possibly altering its ability to survive in the wild.
“Kasam stated that he understood what he did was wrong and he would never pick up or disturb any wildlife again,” the citation states.
The ranger located a bison herd near where Kassam had picked up the calf and released the calf back into the herd, according to the citation. The ranger then notified National Park Service bison management.
Rangers repeatedly tried to reunite the calf with its herd, according to a statement released by Yellowstone. The efforts failed, and the calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and approaching people and cars along the road.
Human interference can cause mothers to reject their offspring, the park said.
Yellowstone released a statement after receiving criticism for euthanizing the calf. For the calf to leave the park, it would have had to spend months in quarantine to be monitored for brucellosis, a disease that causes bison, elk and cattle to miscarry. No approved quarantine facilities exist, and the park said it doesn’t have the capacity to care for a calf that’s too young to forage on its own.
“Nor is it the mission of the National Park Service to rescue animals: our goal is to maintain the ecological processes of Yellowstone,” the statement said. “Even though humans were involved in this case, it is not uncommon for bison, especially young mothers, to lose or abandon their calves. Those animals typically die of starvation or predation.”
The park has repeatedly advised visitors of late to respect wildlife and to know and follow safety regulations.
“We would like to reiterate that approaching wild animals could drastically affect their well-being, and in this specific case, their survival,” said Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin.
A woman taking a picture of an elk during a recent Yellowstone visit was charged by the animal when she got too close. The elk knocked her to the ground before backing away.
Visitors should stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from all other wildlife, the park has said.