It's a story that has outraged many people.
A baby bison was euthanized after some foreign visitors to Yellowstone National Park scooped it up and put in their van to keep it warm.
"They meant well," said Vanessa Lacayo, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service Intermountain Region. "They wanted to do some good. They thought the calf was cold... but we really want to stress that you should leave wildlife alone."
Lacayo told Denver7 that euthanasia was the last resort.
"Our park rangers tried to re-integrate the calf back to the herd but it was rejected several times,” she said. “The calf then kept going out into traffic and approaching other visitors.”
When asked if the herd might have accepted the calf had it not been put into the van, Lacayo replied, “There’s no way to know for sure, but there’s definitely a lot of evidence that the calf would have reunited with the herd.”
Lacayo said sending the calf to a zoo or wildlife refuge was not an option.
“We would have had to quarantine the animal to make sure it didn’t have any diseases that could spread,” she said. “At the National Park Service, we manage the parks but not the animals, so we were not equipped to handle a quarantine process.”
The spokeswoman added, “When you’re dealing with a young calf like that, there are nutritional needs that only a mom can give them.”
Facebook lit up with reaction about the bison calf and the people who put it in their van.
“How stupid can people be,” one person posted.
“This makes me so sad,” said another.
Lacayo said the visitors responsible were cited for removing animals from public lands.
She said they could be fined and may have to appear in court.
“Sounds like somebody who didn’t have much understanding about… wildlife,” said Brian Glaeser, a Wisconsin resident who toured through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday, to see the bison herd there.
“It’s wonderful to be able to see wildlife acting in the wild, like they act normally,” he said. “Don’t touch them. Leave them alone. Stay a safe distance away.”
Lacayo said there have been numerous incidents of inappropriate, dangerous and illegal behavior with wildlife in recent weeks.
“In a recent viral video, a visitor approached within an arms’s length of an adult bison in the Old Faithful area,” park officials said in a statement. “Another video featured visitors posing for pictures with bison at extremely unsafe and illegal distances.”
Last year, five visitors were seriously injured when they approached bison too closely.
Park officials say bison injure more visitors to Yellowstone than any other animal.
But it’s not just bison that people take chances with.
“You’d be surprised the animals out there that people have tried to take a selfie with, as silly as that might sound to some people, it’s not to others and it can cause a real safety concern.”
Park regulations require that you stay at least 25 yards away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards way from bears and wolves.
Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury and even death.
For more information about safety in Yellowstone, visit: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/safety.htm