A high-ranking Wyoming Highway Patrol officer will not be punished by Yellowstone National Park after appearing in controversial photograph showing him posing close to a resting bison.
Park rules state that visitors must remain at least 25 yards from wild animals. On Tuesday, Yellowstone officials determined that Highway Patrol Major Keith Groeneweg was beyond that distance, despite the perspective offered in the image posted above.
Groeneweg, who was in the park on vacation, posted the image as his Facebook profile photo, along with the caption: "Yellowstone signs everywhere: 'Stay 100 yards from animals. They can be dangerous.' Keith's translation: 'Time to sneak up and hug a buffalo! #YNP #ILoveWyoming.’"
(Park rules state that visitors on foot remain at least 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from other animals).
The image, since removed, prompted an investigation of the state's No. 3-ranking Highway Patrol official.
Pete Webster, Yellowstone chief ranger, said told the Casper Star-Tribune last week that Groeneweg "was apologetic" and that "the photo was purposely distorted to appear a lot closer than he was.”
Groeneweg claimed that a ditch between him and the bison helped lend the perspective that he was much closer to the animal.
On Tuesday, the Star-Tribune quoted Highway Patrol Colonel Kebin Haller as saying, in an emailed statement, "Major Groeneweg fully cooperated with the Park Rangers throughout the investigation and the National Park Service has advised the investigation has been closed with no further action."
Yellowstone National Park's American bison population – the animals are sometimes referred to as buffalo – is estimated at between 2,300 and 5,000.
The American bison is the largest land mammal in North America. Males can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.
According to the Yellowstone National Park website, bison, which can attain speeds of 35 mph, have killed more people than any other animal in the park.
Their only natural predators are grizzly bears and wolves.