An Illinois woman now has a better understanding of Yellowstone National Park rules after getting bluff charged by a grizzly while filming it in close proximity. But for Samantha Dehring, 24, it’s about three months too late as she is now being charged with willfully filming or taking photos in a manner that disturbs wildlife.
Thanks to social media sleuths, Park officials were recently able to identify Dehring, despite having little physical evidence from the encounter besides the suspect’s physical appearance.
The charge first caught the Park’s attention when a video surfaced online of an unidentified woman approaching a female grizzly bear and her two yearling cubs at the north end of the Roaring Mountain parking lot while filming them on her cellphone. The female grizzly charged the woman, who turned and quickly walked away from the bears.
The woman was in violation of Park rules that state visitors must stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves whenever possible, and 25 yards from everything else.
Violation of this rule can result in up to one year in jail and $10,000 in fines.
According to charging documents, although it was first estimated that the woman had been 30 feet from the bears, it was later determined that she was a mere 15 feet at the time of the charge.
All that was believed to be known from the video was that she was white, in her mid-30s, had brown hair, was heavyset and wore black clothing.
Yellowstone created a tip line from the incident in order to obtain her identity.
According to the court documents, witnesses at the scene said they had told the woman to back up but she would not relent. Additional footage was provided to officials by witnesses, showing the woman standing with two men.
Numerous tips were received, including a report that a woman named “Sam” was identified as the female in the video by her mother Janet Dehring on Facebook. Park officials found Samantha Dehring’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and saw that she matched the appearance of the woman in the video. The day of the bluff charge, her father, Kirk Dehring had twice posted about the family’s visit to Yellowstone and tagged Samantha Dehring and her brother.
Samantha Dehring refused to return calls made by a Yellowstone park ranger and on June 24, a search warrant was granted to inspect Samantha Dehring’s Facebook that had been set to a private mode.
As of last Wednesday, Samantha Dehring’s Facebook and Instagram accounts still existed, but by Friday she had deleted those pages and her LinkedIn profile.
According to court documents, investigators discovered that the day after the bear charge, she had “checked in” to the Yellowstone North Entrance on Facebook and commented that she was “absolutely floored by the beauty of this place.” In that same post she uploaded four photos, one of which was a photo of the three bears from the incident, matching the same physical scenery and weather conditions at Roaring Mountain from the time of the incident.
It was also discovered that the same day Yellowstone created the tip line, Dehring had “unfollowed” the Yellowstone Facebook page.
In a May 28 Facebook Messenger chat, she and other individuals had a conversation about a hiker that had recently been mauled by a bear in the Park.
“Well they won’t be going after sis for a while now lol,” one person remarked.
Park staff served a notice of the charge to her with assistance from rangers of the Indiana Dunes National Park on July 20.
Dehring will have her first court date Aug. 26 at the Yellowstone Justice Center.