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New Details, Video Emerge on Now Infamous Yellowstone Bison Calf

bison calf
East Idaho News/storyful

New details on tourists responsible and apparent video of calf before incident.

A little over a week ago, we reported on the story of the bison calf now known around the world after some tourists put into their vehicle in Yellowstone because they thought it was cold.

The men were cited for disturbing wildlife and the calf had to be euthanized after the bison herd wouldn't take the animal back. The story and photo of the calf quickly went viral and mad worldwide headlines. Now some new details are emerging in the incident.

East Idaho News

We now know the man cited was Quebec resident Shamash Kassam. He was visiting the park with his son. A copy of the citation and a statement of the incident was obtained and put online by East Idaho News.

Allegedly, Kassam and his son came across the calf a few miles east of Lamar buffalo ranch, wet and shivering in the middle of the road.

The calf apparently did not want to leave their vehicle, huddling up close to it for warmth. The men also told rangers they waited to see if a mother would arrive.

"After 20 minutes they still could not see any bison anywhere in the vicinity, the bison calf would not leave their vehicle, appearing to be seeking warmth from the engine, and Kassam stated he decided to pick up the bison calf, or it would have been road kill, and drive to the Buffalo Ranch and call law enforcement for assistance," the statement reads.

The response from the ranger was predictable. "I advised Kassam that bison, including calves, are wild animals and in Yellowstone National Park, people are not allowed to intervene with wildlife, touch, disturb or feed them, and that by removing the calf, he was preventing the mother from locating it and possibly altering its ability to survive in the wild," the statement further reads.

Interestingly enough, the statement also says the calf was released back in the same general area. "A bison herd was located near where Kassam had picked up the calf, and the calf was released back into the herd," the statement reads. "I observed another bison with another calf, lick the bison calf and then walk towards the Lamar River with the calf following closely."

In spite of what the citation reads, a statement from the National Park Service reports the exact opposite. "In this case, park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the newborn bison calf with the herd," the NPS statement said. "These efforts failed. The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway."

Kassam was fined $110 in the incident according to the citation copy posted by East Idaho News. As you probably already noticed, the NPS immediately fell under heavy criticism for their decision to euthanize the calf in the days following.

Many were also questioning just how the men managed to pick up the calf without retaliation from a mother bison. But now, video has emerged that may show how the calf became separated from the herd in the first place.

A woman from Utah shot video of a group of bison attempting to cross a river when a calf gets caught up the strong current and separated from the rest of the group. Other parts of the video show the calf standing in the road next to an SUV.

The calf does appear to be shivering in the video. "It was just heart-wrenching because it was literally collapsing and there was no buffalo around," Natalie Kinzel told 2 KUTV.

It wasn't until later that Kinzel heard about the incident and realized it was likely the calf she saw. Unlike Kassam, Kinzel and her family left the calf where they found it. "It was so pitiful," Kinzel said. "We were teary eyed when we left."

There is a chance it's not the same bison calf, but Kinzel told 2 KUTV the details and time of the incident match when and where they saw the baby.

If it truly is the same calf, it also explains why Kassam and his son thought the calf was cold. Kinzel and her family told 2 KUTV they understood Kassam's actions because they also wanted to do something to help, but they left the animal alone.

"I'm sure out of the goodness of their hearts, they were trying to help," she told the station.

There were many who questioned why the animal was not sent to a wildlife rehab center. The NPS responded to these criticisms and defended their decision to euthanize the animal in a response to their original statement on Facebook.

"In order to ship the calf out of the park, it would have had to go through months of quarantine to be monitored for brucellosis. No approved quarantine facilities exist at this time, and we don'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. 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," a reply to their original Facebook post by the park reads.

Unfortunately, this kind of incident just seems to further show the disconnect people have with nature these days. People have a hard time understanding, when you go to Yellowstone, it's not a zoo. You're entering a natural ecosystem where officials are going to let the brutal circle of life play out.

When you visit, there's a chance you can witness this brutality of nature first-hand.

Let's just hope this incident further educates people on the realities of nature and wildlife.


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New Details, Video Emerge on Now Infamous Yellowstone Bison Calf