Sticking up for Digger
Argument over dogs preceded bison encounter for man facing harassment charges
To hear Raymond Reinke tell it, the whole mess started as a fight about parenting.
Reinke is the man now known around the globe for appearing in a recent viral video taunting a bison in Yellowstone National Park. Looking back, he insists all his recent trouble started with an argument over whether a dog named Boots would one day hurt another dog named Digger.
Boots is a boxer. Digger is a little blue heeler Chihuahua mix.
In an interview with the Lone Peak Lookout, Reinke said he and his unidentified friend, roommate and fellow traveler argued about the dogs a lot.
“It was always about the dogs,” said Reinke, whose companion reportedly feared Digger was in danger when the much bigger Boots mouthed Digger’s little head and used its paws to pin Digger down. On July 28, the two fought loudly enough about their dogs to attract the attention of authorities at Grand Teton National Park, said Reinke.
This led to a drunk and disorderly conduct charge for Reinke, who spent a night in the Teton County Jail. That’s one of three holding facilities he’s visited during his recent swing through national parks, from Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Glacier, where he was apprehended at the Many Glacier Hotel.
Reinke, 55, of Pendleton, Ore., spoke Aug. 5 to the Lookout through a visitation phone at Gallatin County Detention Center about the events leading up to his man vs. bison standoff on July 31.
The incident has received a tremendous amount of attention. Here’s how Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk viewed Reinke’s bizarre and alarming pseudo-bullfighting dance with the bison.
“The individual’s behavior in this video is reckless, dangerous and illegal. We need people to be stewards of Yellowstone, and one way to do that is to keep your distance from wildlife,” said Wenk. “People who ignore these rules are risking their lives and threatening the park experience for everyone else.”
Reinke takes issue with the taunting charge, insisting he was doing the bison a favor by shooing it off the road. He believed the bison was unnecessarily boxed in by the tourist traffic and decided to do something about it.
“They (the motorists caught in the bison jam) were harassing that thing. They put it in a box. It didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Reinke (pronounced “like the Rhine River”).
From what he remembers, Reinke couldn’t see the bison from where he was stuck in a long line of traffic. After being stalled for 45 minutes, Reinke said he decided to walk up the road to see what was causing the delay.
Reinke claimed he expected to find a car crash and wondered if he could lend a hand.
“I thought I was doing a good deed,” said Reinke.
Instead of finding an auto accident, Reinke walked into an unfolding train wreck of web video infamy, when for the first time in his life, he was suddenly face to face with a wild bison.
Admittedly, from that moment on, Reinke said things didn’t go as planned. A bystander named Lindsey Jones captured what happened next. Jones’ video shows Reinke facing off with the bison and narrowly avoiding being gored by the massive animal.
Reinke described himself as a former roofer seeking disability for a back injury. He also said he has served time in prison for burglary.
At the start of his interview with the Lookout, Reinke said, “I’m in the process of trying to get to civility.”
Later, he contritely added, “I stared down a buffalo, man. That’s not a good thing to do.”
Reinke currently faces five charges in U.S. federal court in Wyoming, which according to court documents include:
•“Presence in park area when under the
influence of alcohol or controlled
with government employee.”
•“Feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or
intentionally disturbing of wildlife.”
•“Carry/store open bottle/container
containing alcoholic beverage.”
•“Make noise that is unreasonable considering
nature/purpose of conduct.”
When Reinke set out for his recent tour of national parks, he didn’t expect to wind up in both jail and a viral video.
Reinke said his friend wanted to see geysers and “I wanted to see the glaciers before they disappear.”
On Aug. 8, Reinke pleaded not guilty during an arraignment and detention hearing at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo. A bench trial is set for Aug. 23.