An Illinois woman will spend four days in jail and will be barred for a year from Yellowstone National Park for not moving out of the way of a grizzly bear and three cubs while visiting the park in May.
The woman, Samantha Dehring, 25, of Carol Stream, Ill., pleaded guilty to “willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards,” Bob Murray, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Wyoming, announced Thursday.
While visiting Roaring Mountain at Yellowstone on May 10, Dehring and others saw a grizzly bear with three cubs, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Others at the park backed away from the bears and returned to their vehicles, but Dehring did not retreat and took pictures of the animals, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Dehring appeared Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman, who sentenced her to the brief jail term and issued the park ban. She also was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and make a $1,000 community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund. “The park is not a zoo where animals can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure,” Murray said in a statement, adding that while in their natural habitat, wild animals will react when they feel threatened. “Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish,” he said. “Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist.”
Dehring also faced another count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wildlife, but it was dismissed.
In a statement, Ethan Morris, a lawyer representing Dehring, said she had “showed great remorse and regret for her actions throughout this case.”
Morris added that Dehring had received “constant online abuse” since video of her encounter with the bears circulated online.
“While we understand that the court must send a message to deter others from violating park regulations, it is unfortunate that the district attorney’s office chose to single Ms. Dehring out,” Morris said. “Nevertheless, we accept the judgment and sentence of the court and hope this case serves as an opportunity for park visitors and staff to take steps to prevent something like this from happening again.”
Dehring’s visit to Yellowstone came at a time when people were exploring national parks at record rates. Yellowstone set visitation records in May, hosting 483,159 visitors, as other popular parks such as Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Joshua Tree National Park in California also drew large crowds.
Yellowstone National Park officials declined to comment.
Yellowstone regulations prohibit visitors from “willfully remaining near or approaching wildlife, including nesting birds, within any distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.”
— © The New York Times Co.