Woman Charged After Approaching Yellowstone Grizzly Bear with Her Cell Phone Despite Warnings

by Matthew Memrick

Officials plan to charge an Illinois woman after a video caught her approaching a Yellowstone grizzly bear with her phone this week.

Samantha Dehring must appear in a Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo. court on Aug. 26. 

Dehring, of Carol Springs, Illinois, faces federal charges of disturbing wildlife after a May 15 incident in the Roaring Mountain area at the national park. Despite warnings from other tourists, the woman approached a grizzly bear and its cubs. Minutes later, the sow grizzly bear charged at Dehring, who calmly walked away.

Subsequently, a social media post showed the unidentified woman as she calmly walked away after the bear charged her. Park officials saw the video and began searching for her. Dehring did not face charges at that time.

According to court documents, Dehring faces one count of violating a federal law that prohibits the “feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentional disturbing of wildlife nesting, breeding or other activities” and one count of “violating closures and use limits.”

The Billings Gazette reported that officials found Dehring through her social media accounts. The Northwestern (Illinois) Daily Herald reported that investigators got a warrant to search the suspect’s social media posts after receiving a tip from someone who had seen a video posting with the suspect’s name tagged in it.

She had posted pictures of the bears on Facebook. The captioning the photo said she was “absolutely floored by the beauty of this place.” 

According to investigators, the bear was only 15 feet away from Dehring. 

Other Incidents After Women’s Encounter With Yellowstone Grizzly Bear

KTVQ.com reported that a bear injured a hiker two weeks after Dehring’s May encounter. Reportedly, it was the national park’s first incident with a bear of 2021. That hiker walked upon two grizzly bears. One of the animals made contact with the man. A press release stated that the man suffered injuries to his lower extremities but hiked away. An ambulance transported him to the local hospital.

Park regulations demand visitors to stay at least 300 feet away from wildlife such as bears and wolves.

Before the May hiker incident, the last recorded National Parks Service incident was in June 2020. At that time, a grizzly bear knocked a woman to the ground and scratched her thigh. Yellowstone rangers killed a black bear after it wandered into a campsite and bit a woman on the arm and head in 2020.

The Billings Gazette also reported on additional incidents in the state. In July of this year, a woman camping in western Montana was pulled from her tent and killed by a grizzly bear. Wildlife officials later shot the animal.

In June 2019, a Yellowstone Park visitor was resting in her tent when she was bitten on the thigh by a black bear.