Yellowstone: Hawaii man pleads guilty to intentionally disturbing baby bison


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

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

Visitors later observed the calf approaching and following 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 young, according to an earlier statement from the park.

“The calf was later euthanized by park staff because it was abandoned by the herd and caused a dangerous situation by approaching cars and people along the road,” the statement said.

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

“Yellowstone National Park wants to remind the public that getting close to wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival,” the statement said. “Park regulations require people to stay at least 25 yards (23m) away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards (91m) from bears and wolves. Ignoring 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 web page states that bison have injured more Yellowstone visitors than any other mammal. They are unpredictable and can run three times faster than humans.

Of the four main park safety rules, two deal with animals: never go near wildlife and never feed wildlife.

Walters was charged a $500 fine, a $500 community service payment to the 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.