YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — The Oregon man who was caught on video harassing a bison in Yellowstone National Park will spend a few more months in jail.
Raymond T. Reinke, 55, pleaded guilty Thursday to disturbing wildlife and three other charges stemming from his encounters with National Park Service law enforcement in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park in late July. He gained notoriety for the disturbing wildlife charge because of a video that circulated widely online showing him harassing a bison in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman sentenced Reinke to a total of 130 days in jail and gave Reinke credit for the three weeks he’d already served. Carman also ordered him to enter treatment for alcoholism, but expressed doubts that it would work for Reinke, a self-proclaimed alcoholic with a long history of run-ins with law enforcement in Oregon and Washington.
“I don’t think there’s anything I can do to turn you into a productive member of society,” Carman said.
In addition to disturbing wildlife, Reinke pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and interfering with law enforcement in Grand Teton and an open container violation in Yellowstone.
The pleas came three weeks after Reinke was arrested in Glacier National Park on a warrant related to a violation of bond conditions set a few days earlier in Grand Teton. He and a friend were on a trip through the national parks that Reinke said was a “last hoorah” before he entered treatment for alcoholism.
He was arrested in Grand Teton on July 28 for drunk and disorderly conduct and spent a night in jail. Three days later, law enforcement officers in Yellowstone stopped the vehicle he was in and cited him for not wearing a seat belt. That was the same day a visitor took video of him taunting and chasing a bison with several cars around. The animal charged him but Reinke walked away unharmed.
Reinke said Thursday that he got out of his car that day because he thought the long line of stopped cars in the Hayden Valley meant someone was hurt. He wanted to help.
He was surprised when he saw a bison was the reason for the traffic jam, he said, and he thought it needed to be herded off the road.
“I thought I was doing what was appropriate,” Reinke said. “I just didn’t think. That’s my stupidity.”
Yellowstone regulations require people to stay at least 25 yards from bison.
Lee Pico, the U.S. Attorney, argued that Reinke’s actions could have led to injury to other visitors and said it was the “most egregious” example of wildlife disturbance he’d seen in 38 years of prosecuting similar cases in Yellowstone.
Carman agreed that it was the most egregious case of wildlife disturbance he’d seen, and he said Reinke was lucky he wasn’t injured.
“You were quite fortunate the bison didn’t take care of this,” Carman said.
Reinke said he was sorry to the bison and that he didn’t intend to hurt it or anyone else.
His sentence includes five years of unsupervised probation. During that time, he is banned from Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.