YNP social media

Yellowstone National Park officials used this post on Instagram to try to identify a woman who got too close to a bear in May.

After a two-month investigation, Yellowstone National Park rangers believe they have identified the woman who approached and photographed a mother grizzly bear and her cubs during a May 10 incident that ignited social media discourse.

The Carol Stream, Illinois, native had just driven into the park with her family. At Roaring Mountain, three grizzly bears were grazing, and a small crowd of tourists gathered to watch.

Some of those visitors later told park rangers that they advised her to back up, but she ignored them.

As the woman stood just 10 yards from the mother grizzly, snapping photos with her smartphone, the sow made a bluff charge, and one of her cubs scampered into the woods. Investigators determined that the bear came within 15 feet of the woman, who quickly dropped the phone to her side and walked away.

Another visitor filmed the entire encounter from the sunroof of her car, and posted it to Instagram the same day with the caption, “Absolutely INSANE.” The video quickly went viral, with calls to find the woman and permanently ban her from the park. Within days, a park ranger was assigned to investigate.

Two weeks after the incident, the National Park Service posted a screenshot from the video and asked the public for help identifying the woman. According to court documents, “numerous tips were received,” which allowed investigators to track down the suspect through her father’s Facebook account. There, he had tagged the woman and her brother in posts about the family’s Yellowstone visit.

Investigators submitted a search warrant to Facebook (because the suspect’s account was private) and found a photo of the bears at Roaring Mountain.

They believe she took the photo and posted it with the caption: “Absolutely floored by the beauty of this place.”

The Illinois woman was charged July 20 in the U.S. District Court in Yellowstone with two related counts of disturbing wildlife. She is set to appear in court Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. in Mammoth.

The Jackson Hole Daily is not disclosing the accused’s name at this time, since the citation is a misdemeanor and a court appearance is pending. — Eds.

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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