When holiday-maker Raymond Reike decided to take on a bison during his trip through Yellowstone National Park, the animal wasn’t impressed. And this particular bison decided to respond in kind. Moreover, a shocked onlooker captured what happened next on camera – and it can only be described as karmic retribution.
The road-tripper in question, 55-year-old Reike, was working his way across some of the U.S.A.’s national parks. In Yellowstone, famed for the hot springs and wildlife that lie within its boundaries, he got up close and personal with a bison. It was an incident that he’d soon regret.
Yellowstone is one of more than 400 areas protected by the U.S. National Park Service, and the first ever area to be given National Park status. The park encompasses sections of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The area is famous for geysers such as Old Faithful, so named due to the regularity of its eruptions. In fact, Yellowstone houses around 50 percent of our planet’s geysers. These features are heated by the active super-volcano that lies under Yellowstone Lake.
Another highlight of Yellowstone is the extraordinary range of different habitats that it contains. These are home to many species, including some that are threatened, endangered or unique to this particular area. This list of wildlife includes one of the oldest bison herds in the U.S. and, during July 2018, one very silly man.
In a video of the incident that subsequently circulated on social media, Reike – from Pendleton, Oregon – can be seen making noises and gesturing towards a bison in a queue of traffic. Lindsay Jones filmed the ensuing events from the car in front, and as she watched, the bison charged.
Clearly irritated, the bison runs towards Reike, but he manages to move out of the way. After further provocation, though, including making fists and growling at the bison, the animal charges again in a more aggressive fashion. Jones then briefly stops filming, saying that she “can’t watch.”
The animal then appears to grow bored and walks away leaving Reike unhurt. Following the confrontation, the National Park Service received a large number of complaints of wildlife harassment. Yet despite this, the New York Post initially reported that Reike had been merely trying to get the bison off the road.
Dan Wenk, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, later commented on the incident in a Facebook post. Wenk described Reike’s behavior as “reckless, dangerous, and illegal.” He added, “We need people to be stewards of Yellowstone, and one way to do that is to keep your distance from wildlife”.
“These distances safeguard both visitors and the remarkable experience of sharing a landscape with thousands of freely-roaming animals,” Wenk continued. “People who ignore these rules are risking their lives and threatening the park experience for everyone else.”
Although not endangered, there are few truly wild populations of American bison, which the biggest land mammal in the United States. They can reach speeds in excess of 30 mph and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. So, if one comes at you, it’s best to move out of the way.
According to the Yellowstone website, “Yellowstone bison represent the best example for preservation of wild plains bison in North America.” Bison have lived in Yellowstone Park “since prehistoric times,” making this area unique to the U.S. and this herd particularly special.
It’s therefore no surprise that The National Park Service has rules in place to protect these animals. One of them stipulates that people should keep a safe distance from them. In the case of bison, this distance is 25 yards. Unfortunately, Reike didn’t adhere to the rules.
After an investigation by the National Park Service, it was revealed this wasn’t the first offence Reike had committed that week. He’d been arrested a few days earlier, in fact, for being drunk and disorderly in Grand Teton Nation Park. As punishment, he was remanded in custody overnight.
After being freed on bond, Reike was instructed to stay away from alcohol. Despite this, he was cited only three days later for not wearing a seat belt in Yellowstone. At the time, officers noted he appeared “intoxicated and argumentative,” according to KRTV.
And Reike was then arrested again on August 2. Park rangers were called to a hotel in the Glacier National Park following a fracas in the dining room. This was his third encounter with officers in the space of a week.
Reike subsequently pleaded guilty to four separate misconduct charges, including “aggressively provoking a bison” according to the Huffington Post. Yet despite the amount of trouble he’d caused during his road trip, Reike seemed apologetic. In court, he reportedly stated, “I’m sorry to the buffalo. He didn’t deserve what I did to him.”
The judge sentenced Reike to 130 days in jail and five years of probation. He has also been ordered not to step foot in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks during this time. In addition, he’s no longer allowed to drink alcohol or frequent bars.
Several Twitter users have subsequently claimed that Reike “got off easy” and should have been banned from all national parks for life. The judge himself also commented that the defendant had been fortunate, saying, “You’re lucky the bison didn’t take care of it and you’re standing in front of me.”
Other Twitter users were clearly in favor of a different sort of justice, with one going so far as to state that Reike needed a “hoof to the face.” Another wrote, “Give him to the bison.” Let’s hope Reike adheres to the ban, or next time he might not be so lucky.