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Oregon man charged with harassing bison in Yellowstone pleads not guilty

August 10, 2018

Raymond Reinke, 55, of Pendleton, Oregon, was caught on video harassing a bison in Yellowstone National Park. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday to five charges stemming from several run-ins with National Park Service law enforcement earlier this month.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyoming — The Oregon man accused of harassing a bison in Yellowstone National Park pleaded not guilty in federal court in Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday, and he’ll remain in jail until his trial later this month.

Raymond Reinke, 55, of Pendleton, Oregon, pleaded not guilty to five charges stemming from several run-ins with National Park Service law enforcement in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone. His most well-known charge is for intentionally disturbing wildlife, stemming from a video that law enforcement says shows him harassing a bison in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman did not set a bond and ordered that Reinke remain in jail until a bench trial on Aug. 23, citing Reinke’s extensive criminal history in Oregon and Washington and his disregard for bond conditions.

“I don’t want to have to bring him back from Oregon,” Carman said.

Reinke was arrested in Glacier National Park on Aug. 2 after a string of encounters with law enforcement in national parks that began in Grand Teton. There, he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct. He spent a night in jail and was released on bond.

He was stopped by park rangers in Yellowstone three days after his arrest in Grand Teton and was cited for not wearing a seat belt. Park rangers believe he encountered the bison in Hayden Valley shortly after that.

A video taken by another visitor showed a man believed to be Reinke taunting and yelling at a bison. The animal eventually charged him but he walked away unharmed. Several visitors reported the encounter to park law enforcement, and Reinke was found and cited that night. The video surfaced later.

Once rangers connected Reinke to the video and his criminal history, the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked that his bond from Grand Teton be revoked. A warrant was issued for his arrest. Rangers in Glacier found him at the Many Glacier Hotel.

He is charged with public intoxication, disturbing the peace and interfering with a government employee in Grand Teton. In Yellowstone, he’s charged with possessing an open container and intentionally disturbing wildlife.

Reinke, a wiry man with short hair and glasses, appeared in court wearing shackles. In a raspy voice, he told the court he considered himself an alcoholic and planned to enter an inpatient treatment facility for alcoholism when he returned to Oregon. He and a friend organized the trip through the national parks as a “last blowout.”

He said he’d been through government-approved alcoholism treatment at least three times before. He doesn’t have a job and is trying to obtain disability benefits because of a number of health issues.

Prosecutors showed the bison video in court, playing in slow-motion the part where the bison charges at Reinke. Reinke didn’t address that incident directly.

He acknowledged drinking alcohol after his release, a violation of his bond conditions. He said he didn’t expect federal law enforcement to track him down and arrest him in Glacier because it was so far away.

“That surprised the daylights out of me,” he said. “You have long arms is all.”

U.S. Attorney Lee Pico argued Reinke should stay in jail because of his bond violations and an extensive criminal history in Oregon and Washington. Pico listed nearly two dozen run-ins with local police in the two states, the earliest coming in 1981 and the most recent coming last fall.

Pico said police in Reinke’s hometown of Pendleton described him “as a doper” and a “volatile individual who does not care about authority.”

Steve Potenberg, Reinke’s defense attorney, argued that he should be released. Potenberg said Reinke’s criminal history consisted of “petty offenses.” He also said the bison video had brought “unprecedented publicity” to the case and that the judge should “recognize the prejudice” that publicity brought.

Carman sided with the prosecutor, saying he didn’t think the publicity should have any bearing on whether Reinke is in jail. He also pointed out that Reinke had violated his bond conditions from Grand Teton — which were ordered by Carman.

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