Illinois woman pleads guilty, sentenced for approaching wildlife in YNP

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. — Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray announced today that an Illinois woman, age 25 of Carol Stream, Illinois, pleaded guilty to willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards. The other count, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife, was dismissed.

The woman appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on Oct. 6, 2021, for her change of plea and sentencing hearing. She was sentenced to four days in custody, one-year unsupervised probation, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, a $1,000 community service payment to Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 court processing fee and a $10 assessment. She also received a one-year ban from Yellowstone National Park.

According to the violation notices, the woman was at Roaring Mountain in Yellowstone National Park on May 10, 2021, when visitors noticed a sow grizzly and her three cubs. While other visitors slowly backed off and got into their vehicles, the woman remained. She continued to take pictures as the sow bluff charged her.

Video of the encounter was widely shared on social media. On May 25, the park posted a photo of the woman along with a plea for tips that could help identify her.

“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are, indeed, wild. The park is not a zoo where animals can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure. They roam freely in their natural habitat and when threatened will react accordingly,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.“Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why [the defenedant] is a criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist.”

According to Yellowstone National Park regulations, when an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space. Stay 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.

Read more about safety in the park, including how to behave around wildlife.

This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

About The Author

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.

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