Yellowstone: Illinois Woman Sentenced After Grizzly Incident
Written by Andrew-Rossi on October 8, 2021
While some might say it’s barely a punishment, a Yellowstone tourist’s imprisonment and ban are intended to send a strong message to anyone visiting the park.
Samantha Dehring of Carol Stream, Illinois, appeared in the U.S. District Court in Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday, Oct. 6. She pleaded guilty to willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards during the hearing.
It was one of two charges Dehring faced for her May 10 incident with a grizzly sow and its cubs in Yellowstone National Park. The other count was dismissed: feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife.
Dehring pled guilty to the one charge and was sentenced to a short term in jail, a year’s probation, and several fines.
Specifically, Dehring was sentenced to four days in custody and one year of unsupervised probation. She was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, a $1,000 community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 court processing fee, and a $10 assessment.
Dehring was at Roaring Mountain in Yellowstone 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.
The grizzles were in a highly visible area and well within the 300-foot distance park regulations mandate between Yellowstone’s visitors and its predators. Yet, despite numerous warnings from other visitors, Dehring did not put any distance between her and the bears.
It didn’t take long for the video of the incident to go viral – and Yellowstone officials were watching. Within two weeks, Dehring’s photo appeared on the Yellowstone National Park Facebook page, and park officials were asking anyone with tips to contact the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch.
Dehring also received a one-year ban from Yellowstone National Park – a common penalty for Yellowstone offenses resulting in an arrest and trial.
According to Yellowstone National Park regulations, when an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space. Stay 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves.
“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. “Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist.”
This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.