an elk calf walking up to its attentive mother
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Yellowstone Visitors Try To "Help" Baby Elk By Putting it in Their Car

We repeat: Wildlife is to stay wild.

We can't believe when people get close or try to pet wildlife at national parks—so the latest incident out of Yellowstone National Park involving, of course, a tourist, is bewildering: Over Memorial Day Weekend, a group of visitors to the park took a baby elk and placed it in their car. The visitors then drove it to the West Yellowstone Police Department in Montana, according to a press release from the National Park Service.

We don't know why—no other details have been released—but officials speculate that perhaps the baby elk was alone and the tourists were trying to help it survive.

If the intentions truly were good, its even more sad because often, elk mothers (cows) are somewhere nearby, having only left their young in a protected area to forage for food. The mother would've come back. But moving the baby to another location means the baby likely won't ever find its family again.

Officials are investigating the completely preventable incident. What's more, at some point, the elk got loose while at the police station and ran off into the forest. Officials do not know where the baby elk went, or its current condition.

The NPS emphasized that people need to "stay away from wildlife" while visiting the parks, highlighting that its dangerous for both the people and for the animals themselves.

Case in point: Last week, a different Yellowstone park visitor picked up a newborn bison calf who was struggling to cross the river. While his intentions were likely good, due to his interference, the calf was shunned by his herd. The calf then becomes a danger to himself and to other visitors, so it had to be euthanized (and the man was fined for his involvement).

Many visitors have been harmed by wildlife due to their insatiable need to get close to animals or take selfies with them. Visitors to Estes Park have been charged by elk who felt threatened, making for some pretty close calls and unsafe situations for everyone involved.

In light of the latest calf-in-a-car incident, the National Park Services reminded visitors, "When an animal is near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, on a road, or in a developed area, leave it alone and give it space."

Visitors to parks need to stay at least 25 yards away from elk, bison, deer, and other wildlife. When it comes to local predators, the NPS stresses that visitors stay at least 100 yards away from wolves and bears while in the park.

The biggest takeaway: If you see a young elk, deer, or even a baby rabbit by themselves at a park or in your backyard, it is best to leave them alone and keep an eye on if they're still alone after 24 to 48 hours. If they are, call wildlife rescue; never try and interfere yourself.

READ MORE: Simms Teams Up With Montana Freshwater Partners to "Give Back to Yellowstone"