Illinois Woman Gets Jail Time for Being Too Close to Grizzly in YNP

A tourist from Illinois was arrested this year for flaunting Yellowstone National Park rules in Roaring Mountain when she approached and stood too close to a grizzly bear and her three cubs. The May 10 incident triggered a response from many officials and commenters online, with the consensus being that Samantha R. Dehring was lucky to be alive. However, she did not go scot-free as she was slapped with a 4-day jail term and some hefty fines. Read on to learn more about what happened.


Yellowstone National Park is home to a wide variety of beautiful wildlife but is best known for its bears. The park advised all people on a wildlife viewing tour to maintain a 100-yard distance between them and bears or wolves at all times. Generally, this rule is in place to protect tourists from bear attacks and to avoid disturbing the bears as they go about their day.

On May 10, Samantha Dering disregarded this rule and moved too close to a grizzly and her three cubs to take pictures. As Dehring was approaching, the bear saw her and her natural instincts to protect her cubs kicked in, forcing her to charge at Dehring. It was fortunate that this was a false charge because the bear eventually turned away without hurting Ms. Dehring.

During the incident, witnesses say that all other viewers in the area retreated to their vehicles but Dehring kept approaching the bear and taking pictures. Videos of the whole event were later posted online on Instagram, with most commenters being outraged or disappointed at her behavior.


Once the video of the Dehring incident was posted online, the response was immediate. Bob Murray, the Acting United States Attorney, was quick to differentiate a park from the zoo, telling Americans that animals in the park are in their natural habitat and can roam freely and should, thus, be viewed at a safe distance. In a news release, he also said that the bear reacted accordingly because she was exposed to danger and that it was only by luck that Dehring had not been mauled.

Yellowstone was also quick to respond by sharing an image of Samantha Dehring and asking help from the public in identifying her. A tip from the public directed the attention of investigators to Dehring’s Facebook page, where she had posted pictures of the grizzly bear family. 

Legal Consequences

When investigators found Dehring, she was charged with willfully approaching, photographing, and standing too close to wildlife. She pled guilty and a judge sentenced her to a maximum of 4 days in jail.  Dehring was also banned from Yellowstone National Park for a year, charged a $1,000 fine, and ordered to donate $1,000 to the Yellowstone wildlife protection fund.

Bear Safety in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park officials confirm that there is at least one bear attack in the park each year. This is why we put forth rules for campers and hikers who might interact with the wildlife to maintain their distance and do their best to avoid approaching bears. If you maintain your distance and follow the park rules, you are in for an adventure of a lifetime. To learn more about our wildlife, safety guides, and wildlife viewing packages, contact Yellowstone Bear World at (208) 267-4589.

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