YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Samantha Dehring of Illinois, who was seen taking photos less than 30 feet away from a grizzly bear with cubs in Yellowstone National Park, will spend time in jail for violating park rules.
Photos of Dehring were widely shared on social media after her encounter with the bear.
She was at Roaring Mountain in Yellowstone National Park on May 10, 2021, when visitors noticed a sow grizzly and her three cubs. While other visitors slowly backed away and got into their vehicles, Dehring remained.
She continued to take pictures as the sow bluff-charged her. Witnesses took pictures and video of the incident which were shared with news outlets, eventually leading to her identification.
A news release from the National Park Service says that Dehring pleaded guilty to willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards. The other count - feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife - was dismissed.
During the hearing, Dehring said she has suffered emotionally from social media attacks due to the incident and has had to delete all of her social media accounts. She also said that she understood that she put herself and other tourists in grave danger and regrets the incident.
Federal Judge Mark Carman said he understood Dehring’s distress and noted it was not the first time he has seen nastiness in social media. He said he has been the subject of social media attacks, too.
Carman noted that Dehring has no criminal history and was not a known lawbreaker, but he said her actions risked substantial injury to herself and others.
Dehring will serve four days in the Gallatin County Detention Center and will pay slightly more than $1,000 in fines, plus another $1,000 to the Yellowstone Forever wildlife protection fund.
She is on probation for a year and also banned from the park for a year.
Judge Carman said his decision was designed to "put an exclamation point on how serious this is."
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Park regulations require visitors to stay at least 300 feet away from bears and wolves. When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, visitors must give it space. Yellowstone National Park guidelines state that visitors must stay 25 yards away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes - and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.
NOTE: This article initially stated that Dehring had been found guilty of harassing wildlife; it has been updated to reflect that she was guilty of violating park closure and use limits, and that the harassing charge was dismissed.