A baby bison was killed after a Yellowstone visitor "intentionally disturbed" it.
Park rangers were forced to euthanize the animal after its herd rejected it, officials said.
Human interference with wild animals can "drastically affect their well-being," they added.
A newborn bison was euthanized by park rangers after a Yellowstone visitor "intentionally disturbed" it, causing its herd to reject it, the national park said in a statement earlier this week.
A photograph released by Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday appeared to show an unidentified man lifting the bison calf from the Lamar River, Wyoming, after it was separated from its mother as the herd crossed the river last weekend.
Visitors later reported seeing the calf follow cars and other people, the park service said.
"Park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the calf with the herd. These efforts failed," the service said.
Officials made the decision to euthanize the calf after it became clear that the herd had abandoned it and it began "causing a hazardous situation" on the road.
Park officials defended their decision to kill the baby bison on Twitter, writing in a statement: "We made the choice we did not because we are lazy, uncaring, or inexpert in our understanding of bison biology. We made the choice we did because national parks preserve natural processes."
The statement added that the newborn calf was not a good candidate for quarantine, as it would not have been able to care for itself.
Human interference with wild animals can "drastically affect their well-being," the park service said, reiterating the importance of giving them space.
Yellowstone Park regulations require that people stay at least 25 yards away from wildlife — including bison, elk, and deer — and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, the statement said.
Ignoring these regulations may result in "fines, injury, and even death," the statement said, adding that the safety of both animals and humans depends on following these "simple rules" and using "good judgment."
The calf's body was left in the ecosystem, as would typically happen with the other 25% of newborn bison that die this spring, the Twitter statement added.
"Those deaths will benefit other animals by feeding everything from bears and wolves to birds and insects. Allowing this cycle of life to play out aligns most closely with the stewardship responsibility entrusted to us by the American people," it said.
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