Man is arrested after taunting bison at Yellowstone National Park, officials say

File photo showing a car stopped by a herd of bison in Yellowstone National Park, where a man was seen harassing a bison which was crossing the road.
File photo showing a car stopped by a herd of bison in Yellowstone National Park, where a man was seen harassing a bison which was crossing the road.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Why did the bison cross the road? Apparently to get away from the belligerent human who was taunting it.

After a video of a man harassing a bison at Yellowstone National Park went viral - and after a disturbance at another national park more than 300 miles away - rangers arrested him. It was the man's fourth run-in with park officers in less than a week.

On Tuesday, the man, identified by the authorities as Raymond Reinke, 55, was captured on video goading and lunging at the bison on a paved road in Yellowstone. The massive brown animal crossed the road and turned its back away from him, until the man gestured at the animal as if trying to coax it into a fight. He flexed his arms and then pointed - which sent the animal charging towards him.

The man did not stop there.

He tested the bison again with an animalistic grunt, balling up his fists and hunching over. The bison charged, horns lowered.

"Oh God, no no - I can't watch anymore!" said the woman who took a video of the action.

But the man ran away, and, luckily for him, the bison seemed to decide it had better things to do that day than prove its dominance over a tourist. The human left Yellowstone unscathed, but he still had the park's staff to contend with.

"The individual's behaviour in this video is reckless, dangerous and illegal," said Dan Wenk, Yellowstone's superintendent, in a Facebook post Thursday.

The park's regulations require visitors to stay at least 25 yards from animals like bison and elk. "People who ignore these rules are risking their lives and threatening the park experience for everyone else," Wenk said in the post.

Yellowstone officials have warned visitors not to fraternise with bison and other wildlife before. In recent years, a woman was injured while trying to take a selfie near a bison, and a bison calf had to be euthanised after a visitor put it in the back of an SUV.

Reinke, who is from Pendleton, Oregon, was arrested Thursday night at Glacier National Park in Montana after a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to a news release from Yellowstone.

Rangers were called to a hotel in the park because Reinke was causing a disturbance by arguing with another guest in the dining room, the news release said, before they realized it was the same man wanted by Yellowstone law enforcement. By this time, the hotel bar had already stopped serving Reinke, said Lauren Alley, a spokeswoman for Glacier National Park.

On July 28, rangers arrested Reinke at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct, according to the news release. He spent the night in jail and then was released on bond.

On Tuesday, rangers at Yellowstone stopped the vehicle Reinke was in for a traffic violation and cited him for failing to wear a seatbelt. Reinke appeared "intoxicated and argumentative," the news release said.

Later, Reinke apparently decided to tease the bison, prompting several reports of wildlife harassment from other visitors. Reinke was issued a citation, but after rangers saw the viral video and connected him to the earlier debauchery in Wyoming, a warrant was issued for his arrest Thursday.

He was arrested that night at the hotel and was booked into a Yellowstone jail in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.

In addition to disturbing wildlife, Reinke faces several other charges, including being intoxicated to a degree that endangers himself or others, unreasonable noise and keeping an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, according to court documents.

Efforts to reach him for comment Friday night were unsuccessful.

At Reinke's court appearance Friday, a judge ordered that he be held in jail until his next court appearance, which is set for Wednesday.