Utah wildlife experts talk of dangers of interacting with wildlife after bison calf euthanized

Posted at 9:42 PM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 10:53:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The story of a bison calf picked up by a tourist in Yellowstone is prompting a reminder about how to handle wildlife encounters.

The group Wild Aware Utah, said many well-meaning people will pick up baby animals, thinking they’re doing a good deed, but they’re actually doing more harm.

“Wildlife really needs to stay wild,” said Wild Aware Utah founder Stephanie Natt. “We don’t need to be bringing them into our homes, these animals are adapted to wildlife.”

Natt said the best thing to do is observe the situation; young animals can get separated from parents for a number of reasons, but most often parents come back.

“It’s best to just let it be,” Natt said. “If you are far away from that youngster, and you do not see an adult come back after several hours, maybe it’s time to call somebody.”

Antelope Island state park ranger Charity Owens said their message to visitors is to always keep their distance from the island’s free roaming bison herd. Luckily only a few people have been close enough to cause dangerous situations.

“If they’re sleeping, if they’re eating, if they’re lying down, and they stand up and look at you, that’s the first sign you‘re too close,” Owens said.

Owens said there’s not a specific distance to be kept on Antelope Island, but bulls will charge when threatened. Visitor Tim Baker said he’s surprised anyone would try and get close enough to pick up a bison calf.

“They’re beautiful animals, and I think they really do deserve everyone’s respect,” Baker said. “In Yellowstone they say they kill more people than grizzly bears do, so that’s something to remember.”

This Saturday, Antelope Island is hosting a public meeting with the island’s biologist to discuss the management of bison on the island. Those interested can meet at the bison corrals at 9 a.m. on May 21. For more information, email