An Illinois woman was sentenced for approaching Yellowstone wildlife after her interaction with a sow grizzly and three cubs went viral on social media.
Twenty-five-year-old Samantha Dehring of Carol Stream, Ill., 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. Dehring appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on October 6, 2021, for her change of plea and sentencing hearing. She was sentenced to four days in custody, one-year unsupervised probation, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, a $1,000 community service payment to Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 court processing fee and a $10 assessment. Dehring also received a one-year ban from Yellowstone National Park.
According to the violation notices, Dehring 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 off and got into their vehicles, Dehring remained. She continued to take pictures as the sow bluff charged her–a maneuver caught on social media (the above photo is a screencap of the viral video).
“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are, indeed, wild. 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,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray in a DOJ press statement. “Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist.”
According to Yellowstone National Park regulations, special care should be taken when approaching Yellowstone wildlife. When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space–at least 100 yards (91 m) away when it comes to bears and wolves.
This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.
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