Clifford Walters of Hawaii pleaded guilty to one count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife on May 31, 2023 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick. 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.
According to the violation notice, on May 20, 2023, Walters approached a struggling newborn bison calf in Lamar Valley near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek. The calf had been separated from its mother when the herd crossed the Lamar River. As the calf struggled, the man pushed the calf up from the river and onto the roadway. Visitors later observed the calf walk up to and follow cars and people. Park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the calf with the herd, but their efforts were unsuccessful. 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. There was nothing in the report that revealed Mr. Walters acted maliciously.
Yellowstone National Park wants to remind the public that approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival. 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. Follow these links to learn more information on wildlife preservation in the park including when Yellowstone staff intervene in a natural process and why and why the bison calf was euthanized.
This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christyne M. Martens. For questions relating to Yellowstone National Park, please contact the Public Affairs Office at 307-344-2015 or email.