COMMENTARY – Bison calf pays the price for human interference

Commentary by Mac Olsen

It is often said that the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but unfortunately good intentions sometimes bring unnecessarily tragic results.

Take the case of a bison calf in Yellowstone National Park. A few weeks ago, some tourists found the animal by itself and, fearing that it was cold, they apprehended it and put it in their vehicle for warmth.

Park Rangers found out about the incident, but by then it was too late. The animal had the human scent on it and the mother wouldn’t accept it back due to that factor.

The Park Rangers were unable to place the animal with a care facility because there wasn’t one in their vicinity.
Consequently, they had to euthanize the animal through no fault of its own.

It is very aggravating to learn of such incidents – and serves as a reminder that humans’ perceptions of wild animals and how they act towards them can have very unintended and tragic consequences.

Who doesn’t remember one of the first lessons taught in elementary school? Leave a bird’s nest with eggs alone because the parents will abandon them if they have human scent on them.

It shouldn’t take a giant leap in logic to apply that same lesson to a bison calf. But some people, like these tourists, either forget that lesson or don’t seem to learn it.

Their intentions may been well and good, but they should understand that wild animals should be left alone, untouched and observed only from a distance.

I can remember an instance a few years ago when I was out deer hunting. I came across a group of does and fawns together and they spotted me. I watched them from a distance and then decided to call off my hunt for the day.

As I left, three or four fawns wanted to follow me because they were curious. However, I scared them off and back to their mothers because I didn’t want them to have direct contact with me.

As a hunter, I have an appreciation for wild animals and that they should remain wild.

There are instances when a wild animal should be assisted, but extreme precautions are also required.

When I worked in Thompson, Manitoba years ago, I did a story about a baby eagle that had to be cared for by the local zoo. It had lost its parents.

The eagle was kept isolated and the zoo workers disguised themselves as eagles so the animal wouldn’t become misguided and totally reliant on them for its survival. The eagle was successfully released back into the wild a few months later.

In the fall of 2008, a couple in Peavine Metis Settlement found an owl with a broken wing. They looked after it for a time and then took it to an animal shelter in Edmonton for evaluation.

Workers at the shelter determined the wing was permanently damaged, so the owl would never be able to return to the wild. Fortunately, it was given a new home at another animal shelter near Calgary and became a surrogate parent for baby owls.

But while there are legimitate reasons for assisting wildlife in some cases, by and large they must be left alone. The euthanization of the bison calf is an example of tragedy that can be avoided.

Share this post