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Yellowstone visitors picked up a baby elk and drove it in their car, officials say

Undated file photo of an elk calf in Yellowstone National Park
Posted at 11:34 AM, Jun 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-06 01:04:10-04

Officials at Yellowstone National Park are urging the public to keep a distance from wildlife after several recent incidents involving people interacting with animals — including a baby elk that was picked up by tourists and driven in their car.

"In recent days, some actions by visitors have led to the endangerment of people and wildlife and resulted in the death of wildlife," the park said in a news release on Thursday. "The park calls on visitors to protect wildlife by understanding how their actions can negatively impact wildlife."

Officials said that over Memorial Day Weekend, visitors put a newborn elk in their car while driving in the park and brought the animal to the West Yellowstone Police Department.

Park officials said the calf "later ran off into the forest and its condition is unknown."

Officials did not say why the tourists drove the animal to the police station but said they are investigating.

The incident unfolded around the same time that a Hawaii man pleaded guilty to disturbing a baby bison at Yellowstone, resulting in the calf being euthanized.

"Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in some cases, their survival," the park said. "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."

Park officials also warned visitors to reduce their driving speeds on park roads. Last week, two black bears were struck and killed on U.S. Highway 91 on the same day, officials said. One elk and one bison were also hit by separate vehicles, officials said.

Park regulations require that visitors stay at least 25 yards away from bison, elk and deer — and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

"Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury, and even death," the park says.