A 'lesson for all': Woman gets jail sentence after photographing grizzly bears at Yellowstone

Samantha Dehring was caught on tape within 100 yards of the bears.

October 19, 2021, 12:35 PM

After a video of her trying to photograph grizzly bears went viral, a woman from Illinois has been sentenced to four days in jail and banned from Yellowstone National Park for a year.

Samantha Dehring, 25, from Carol Stream, Illinois, was charged on Oct. 6 for disturbing wildlife at Roaring Mountain in the park on May 10 while attempting to get a close-up picture of a grizzly bear and her cubs. Dehring has to spend four days in custody, a year on unsupervised probation and faces up to $2,040 in fines and fees.

In an announcement on Thursday, acting U.S. attorney Bob Murray on behalf of the District of Wyoming said: "Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist."

PHOTO: An Illinois woman pictured near a bear and her cubs at Yellowstone National Park.
An Illinois woman pictured near a bear and her cubs at Yellowstone National Park.
Darcie Addington via U.S. Park Rangers , FILE

Dehring appeared before a magistrate judge in Mammoth Hot Spring, Wyoming, on Wednesday, more than a month after she was slated to appear. She was also charged with another count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wildlife, which was dismissed.

In a statement to ABC News Friday evening, Dehring's attorney Ethan Morris said that he "hopes this event is a lesson to all that these regulations need to be heeded and followed." He said that his client has accepted responsibility and had been "very remorseful" through the entire process, showing the court that "this is not who she is."

Acknowledging that rangers have multiple duties, Morris also said, "Had that ranger been in the vicinity of those bears and the visitors that were within a hundred yards saying, 'Hey, look, there's regulation in place here that needs to be followed. You need to back away.' I think that would have prevented this situation."

As per the National Park Service's regulations: "willfully remaining near or approaching wildlife" is prohibited.

"The park is not a zoo where animals can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure," Murray said.

This news comes less than a month after Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced the state's intention to ask the federal government to lift its protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area.