Woman Gets Jail Time For Viral Encounter With Charging Yellowstone Grizzly Bear

There are over 700 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem but - for the love of God - don't go anywhere near them. Image credit: Bill Dreitlein/Shutterstock.com

A woman was sentenced to four days in jail, received a bunch of fines, and will be barred for a year from Yellowstone National Park for getting dangerously close to a grizzly bear family while visiting the park in May. 

Speaking about the case, the Acting US Attorney for the District of Wyoming did not mince their words, remarking that the woman should be considered lucky that she ended up a criminal defended and not a "mauled tourist."

A video (below) of the encounter, which went viral earlier this year, shows the woman filming a grizzly and its three cubs on her smartphone. Even after the adult bear angrily bolts towards the woman in a "bluff charge" (when a bear charges but suddenly stops before making any contact) she remains remarkably unfazed and continues to film before walking away.

The National Park Service has announced that the woman, 25-year-old Samantha Dehring from Illinois, pleaded guilty to willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards. The other count — related to feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife — was dropped. Appearing in court on Wednesday, Dehring was sentenced to the four-day jail term, a number of fines amounting to $2,040, and was issued a year's ban from the park.

“Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist,” Bob Murray, Acting US Attorney for the District of Wyoming, said in a statement.

Yellowstone National Park regulations state visitors must stay 23 meters (~75 feet) away from all large animals, such as bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes, and keep at least 91 meters (~300 feet) away from bears and wolves. It’s also illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife within any distance that disturbs or displaces the animal. In the words of the National Park Service: “If you cause an animal to move, you're too close.”

“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are, indeed, wild,” said Murray. The park is not a zoo where animals can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure. They roam freely in their natural habitat and when threatened will react accordingly.”


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