Woman Harassed After Wrongfully Blamed for Causing Baby Bison Death

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
May 20, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

Karen Richardson had no idea things would get so far out of control when she snapped a picture of a most baffling scene—a wild baby bison standing in the back of an SUV.

Richardson was chaperoning a group of fifth-graders on a field trip in Yellowstone National Park on May 9, when two tourists pulled in with their SUV, wanting to speak with a ranger.

The tourists, a father and a son, had a bison calf loaded in their vehicle.

The tourists had picked up the baby bison because “they were seriously worried that the calf was freezing and dying,” Richardson told eastidahonews.com.

Another adult accompanying Richardson and the group of children told the tourists to get the bison out of their car and warned them they could be in trouble for having it.

Richardson took a picture of the bison and later posted it on Facebook.

“Dear Tourists: The Bison calf is not cold and it is not lost. PUT IT BACK! (yes, the park rangers took care of the situation),” Richardson wrote in her Facebook post.

Little did she know what would ensue.

Soon enough, her post was picked up by multiple media outlets.

The tourists were slapped with a ticket and the calf returned to the wilderness.

Lesson learned. End of story. It seemed like just another one of those mind-boggling stories shared on Facebook. 

But it wasn’t.

A week later, the National Park Service issued a news release stating the calf had to be euthanized because, despite multiple attempts, it was rejected by the herd. Interference by people can cause mothers to reject their offspring, according to the service. But, it is not uncommon for bison, especially young mothers, to lose or abandon their calves.

Media followed up on the story, including Epoch Times, but this time the general public was even less amused.

Many commenters seemed angry, some questioned why the calf was euthanized, and others just blamed the tourists for picking it up in the first place.

Park authorities explained the calf might have been ill and they don’t have quarantine facilities or capacity to care for the animal.

That may have answered some of questions, but not the ire towards the tourists—the original perpetrators.

And Richardson was caught up in the mix.

She started receiving messages blaming her for the death of the bison calf from people apparently thinking she was the one who put it in the vehicle.

“Just very foul messages,” she told Epoch Times through Facebook. “Some of them are sent to me, then the person will block me so I can’t reply to them.”

Apart from about a dozen personal messages, there are more addressed to her in the comments sections on media sites, she wrote.

And, she was told, there were also death threats.

“I’ve avoided following stories because it just frustrates me, but a gentleman messaged me last night about all the hate messages and death threats he’s seen,” she wrote.

The gentleman also thought Richardson was responsible for the incident, “but said he was sorry for how I’ve been treated,” she wrote.

The misinformation even spilled into her daily life.

She would go to a store and hear people talking about “that ‘Idaho girl’ who put the bison in the back of her car and how ‘everyone in Idaho is mad at her,'” she wrote.

Richardson wasn’t sure though what was the source of the misinformation.

Epoch Times reviewed at least 30 articles on the incident and found three that didn’t explain Richardson’s relationship with the incident or were worded in a way that may have been misread to implicate Richardson.

Richardson acknowledged that the harassment has since slowed down. “I’m just ready for it to drop,” she wrote.

One thing’s for sure: The incident has made her more cautious about posting on Facebook.

Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.