A Confusion of the Heart

— by Deb Matlock M.A. —

Recently in Yellowstone National Park, a couple of visitors from out of the country saw a baby bison laying by the side of the road. Fearing the baby was cold, they placed the baby in the back of their car and drove to a ranger station seeking help for the young one. Locals and those familiar with the etiquette of living with bison know these individuals made a very dangerous decision for everyone involved. However, this situation speaks to the deeper need to understand the world around us so that our heart can make informed decisions when we feel compelled to act.

The tragically unfortunate ending to this story is that the baby bison ultimately had to be euthanized due to apparent rejection from the herd. One important piece of this story is that it is unknown as to whether or not the baby was rejected prior to the visitor’s involvement or as a result of being handled by the visitors. In any case, the visitors who took the baby to the ranger station were cited. When I heard the outcome of this story, my heart broke… so very sad that this baby had to die… and so very sad that the goodness of heart and empathy for another living being exhibited by the visitors was so misplaced and confused.

Herd of bison in the snow with mountains in the background
Bison herd in the snow | Ariel Celeste Photography

In the days following this incident, as word spread through cyberspace and various media networks, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with the chatter taking place on social media in regards to this tragedy. I was stunned at the name calling, outright threatening comments, and general righteousness directed toward the park visitors whose uninformed actions may have led to the death of the baby bison.  

While we absolutely cannot overlook the seriousness and improperness inherent in placing a baby wild bison into a car, we also cannot overlook that these people were acting from the heart out of genuine concern for another living being. As an environmental education professional, I can say without question that all of these elements must be considered when figuring out how to address such a terrible situation. Additionally, we must continue to ask ourselves what can we each do to help prevent such an act in the future.  

It seems to me that a situation such as this exemplifies not only the need for a deeper connection to life around us and more substantial education regarding wildlife and their needs, but also illustrates the deep caring potential within the human heart which only needs proper direction to become a truly powerful, healing force on Earth. Let us move forward with a clear image of all that an incident such as this can teach us and not merely use it as another opportunity to vehemently criticize the actions of others.

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