By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
An Illinois woman who was caught on video getting too close to grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park earlier this year received four days in jail as punishment this week.
Samantha R. Dehring, 25, 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 Wednesday for her change of plea and sentencing hearing.
She was sentenced to four days in custody, one-year of unsupervised probation and 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 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, 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.
“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.”
According to the National Park Service, a bluff charge is the more common type of charge and is meant to scare or intimidate. If a bluff charge is about to happen, a person is supposed to slowly back away from the bear while waving their arms above their head and speaking to the bear in a calm voice.
People should not run when a bear bluff charges, because it may trigger the animal to attack.
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 away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.
If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.
This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.