A video was captured of the suspect on 10 May of a woman taking photos before the bear becomes distressed and bluff charges, reported The Billings Gazette.
Yellowstone National Park later put out a post looking for the “unidentified woman”. She “approached a female grizzly bear and her two cubs at the north end of the Roaring Mountain parking lot,” officials said on Instagram.
Animals in the 2,200-acre park are strictly protected. The park states that visitors must “always stay at least 100 yards (91 metres) away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 metres ) away from all other animals, including bison and elk.”
Fines can be hundreds of dollars for deliberately harassing wildlife. “The animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be,” states official park information “The safest (and often best) view of wildlife is from inside a car.”
The park has posted a picture of the woman who approached the grizzly bear, and has asked for help identifying her. “The unidentified woman is described as white, mid-30s, brown hair, and wearing black clothing. If you were around Roaring Mountain on 10 May, 2021 at 4.45pm, or you have information that could help, please contact NPS Investigative Services Branch,” wrote the post. “You don’t have to tell us who you are, but please tell us what you know.”
Animal welfare is taken extremely seriously in national parks and protected areas in the US. In mid-July, a couple was fined for touching an endangered seal on their honeymoon in Hawaii. They posted about it on social media – the post went viral and the couple were identified by authorities. Hawaiian monk seals are endangered, there are roughly 1,400 left in existence.
Those found guilty of disturbing or touching a Hawaiian monk seal could be fined up to $50,000 (£36,000), it also carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Grizzly Bears around the Yellowstone area are on the endangered species list, and protected under the Endangered Species Act – meaning it is illegal to harm, harass, or kill these bears, aside from in self-defence. It’s estimated that there are between 700-100 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area.