'We were trying to save its life': Quebec man who put bison calf in SUV
Father and son say the online reaction to their attempted rescue was 'devastating'
The Quebec man who put a baby bison in his SUV at Yellowstone National Park is defending his actions in an exclusive interview with CBC News.
Shamash Kassam of Brossard, Que., and his son Shakeel were driving in the U.S. park on May 9 when they came across a bison calf on the side of the road next to a car parked on the shoulder.
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"It was shivering badly," Shamash said.
The Kassams asked the woman who was by the car what had happened.
In an interview with KUTV 2News in Salt Lake City, Natalie Kinzel said she watched as the bison calf got swept down a river. It eventually got out of the water but was alone.
"It was just heart-wrenching, because it was literally collapsing and there was no buffalo around," Kinzel said.
"It was so pitiful," Kinzel said. "We were teary-eyed when we left."
The Kassams left the area but decided to turn back to help the bison.
"We were afraid if we left it there, it would be road kill," Shamash said.
"The main reason we picked it up was because it was abandoned by its herd."
There was no cellphone service in the area, so they put the bison in their SUV and drove off to a ranger station.
"We were always thinking that once we bring it to the ranger, they will be able to take care of it." Shamash said.
The ranger tried to reunite the calf with its herd, but when that was unsuccessful, the park made the decision to euthanize it.
The main reason we picked it up was because it was abandoned by its herd.— Shamash Kassam
In a Facebook post, the park defended its decision, saying "we made the choice we did because national parks preserve natural processes. By this we mean undomesticated wildlife and the ecosystems they both depend on and contribute to."
On Thursday, Shamash appeared before a Wyoming judge via telephone and pleaded guilty to a wildlife disturbance citation.
He was fined $235 and ordered to make a $500 donation to the Yellowstone Park Foundation. The judge gave him six months' probation and explained that Kassam "shall not pick up any more bison.'
Reaction online was 'devastating'
When they arrived at the ranger station with the calf in their SUV, a woman asked if she could take a photo, which went viral online.
"We do not realize that she would talk to a reporter and publish a story and make it into a big thing," Shakeel said.
Reaction to the incident exploded on social media, with some calling for the Kassams to receive harsh punishment. Some even went as far as saying it should have been them euthanized and not the bison.
"It was terrible, we were devastated," Shamash said.
"We were just trying to do the good thing."
The Kassams said people were quick to vilify them without understanding the situation.
"There was no bison around and it was just in the middle of the road, so we figured, it's definitely going to die if we don't assist it," Shakeel said.
"Our intentions were good."