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Sports >  Outdoors

A mother bear rushed a woman snapping a photo of her cubs. Now, the parkgoer is facing federal charges.

UPDATED: Fri., July 30, 2021

A National Park Service photo of a Yellowstone grizzly, not the one shown in the video.  (Courtesy of Jim Peaco)
A National Park Service photo of a Yellowstone grizzly, not the one shown in the video. (Courtesy of Jim Peaco)
By Katie Shepherd Washington Post

When a hulking grizzly bear and her two cubs wandered into a clearing near a parking lot at Yellowstone National Park on May 10, a woman pulled out her phone to snap photos.

As she came within three yards of the trio – with just a thigh-high stone barrier between them – the mother bear suddenly charged, a video of the incident captured by another park visitor showed. People behind the woman gasped as she slipped her phone into her sweatshirt pocket and quickly walked away.

The mother bear stopped after a few steps as her cubs scuttled off toward the nearby tree line. The bear turned and retreated with her offspring.

Yellowstone National Park officials on Wednesday charged the woman, who is from Carol Stream, Ill., with feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentional disturbing wildlife – a federal violation of park policy barring visitors from getting within 100 yards of a bear. She is set to appear for a hearing at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Wyoming on Aug. 26, according to a citation filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.

Grizzly bears have rarely attacked people inside or near Yellowstone National Park, where more than 700 of the animals live. Since Yellowstone opened in 1872, eight people have been killed by bears inside the park, according to the National Park Service. Officials say an average of one nonfatal bear attack happens there each year.

Witnesses who saw the woman approach the mother bear and her cubs in May warned her to get back inside her car, the Billings Gazette reported. Investigators found that she had posted photos of the bears on her Facebook page with the caption “absolutely floored by the beauty of this place,” the newspaper reported.

Investigators also found that she unfollowed the Yellowstone National Park’s Facebook account the day that officials made a public plea to identify the woman from the video a bystander captured.

Despite warnings to steer clear of wild animals, visitors to national parks frequently run afoul of regulations that mandate keeping a safe distance from the native wildlife – sometimes with deadly consequences.

In 2016, a couple put a newborn bison in their car because they were “worried that the calf was freezing and dying,” although the temperatures inside Yellowstone did not drop below freezing that night. Park officials tried again and again to reunite the calf with its herd, but its mother rejected the stolen baby. The animal had to be euthanized, park officials said.

And in 2019, a fully grown bison tossed a 9-year-old girl into the air, causing her to flip before slamming into the ground, after a group of hikers ventured far too close to the bull.

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