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Yellowstone: Hawaii man pleads guilty to intentionally disturbing bison calf

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Walters was photographed during the incident, and his identity was unknown by the park at first. PHOTO BY HELLEN JACKS


On May 31, Clifford Walters was fined a total of $1,040 after pleading guilty to one count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife at Yellowstone National Park.  

According to a press release from the park, on May 20, Clifford Walters of Hawaii approached a newborn bison calf that was struggling and had been separated from its mother in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. The calf was stuck near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek, and Walters pushed the calf up from the river and onto the roadway. There was nothing in the report that revealed Mr. Walters acted maliciously.  

Visitors later observed the calf walk up to and follow cars and people. Park rangers tried repeatedly, and without success, to reunite the calf with its herd—contact with humans can cause wildlife to reject their offspring, according to a previous release from the park.  

“The calf was later euthanized by park staff because it was abandoned by the herd and causing a hazardous situation by approaching cars and people along the roadway,” the release states.  

The National Park Service wrote an article explaining why the calf was euthanized.  

“Yellowstone National Park wants to remind the public that approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival,” the release states. “Park regulations require that people stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury and even death. The safety of these animals, as well as human safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple rules.” 

The park regulations webpage states that bison have injured more Yellowstone visitors than any other mammal. They are unpredictable and can run three times as fast as humans.  

Of the park’s four primary safety rules, two discuss animals: never approach wildlife, and never feed wildlife.  

Walters was charged a $500 fine, a $500 community service payment to Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 special assessment and a $10 processing fee. This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christyne M. Martens. 

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