Wildlife photographer says slowing down to photograph grizzly bear has cost him $20,000

Grizzly bear facing camera
A judge found the photographer guilty of obstructing traffic to photograph the injured bear (Image credit: Getty)

A renowned wildlife photographer who was fined for slowing traffic to photograph a grizzly bear has claimed that fighting the ticket has cost him $20,000.

On October 9, 2023, Tom Mangelson saw an injured grizzly bear lying on the side of Highway 26 in Grand Teton National Park. He slowed down to photograph the bear, known as grizzly bear #610, which had been struck by a vehicle. Later that day, the bear recovered from its injuries, but Mangelson received a $150 fine for obstructing traffic. 

Mangelson has been disputing the fine, claiming that he was slowing down to protect the bear and her cubs, while the National Parks Service says he was operating his vehicle at such a slow speed as to interfere with the normal flow of traffic, otherwise known as creating a "bear jam", according to reporting by WyoFile.

Though Mangelson's lawyers argued in court last week that the body cam footage presented by the NPS doesn't in fact show Mangelson or his vehicle, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman issued a guilty verdict on Tuesday, writing that Mangelson had driven past the site on four separate occasions for the "specific purpose of slowing the traffic in the vicinity of grizzly bear #610"

“He drove back and forth past the site at a very slow rate of speed and in doing so caused other traffic to slow behind him."

Bears in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is a hotspot for wildlife viewing (Image credit: Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images)

Mangelson, who owns a gallery in Jackson, estimates he has spent about $20,000 defending his case and tells WyoFile on Wednesday that he will appeal his conviction after sentencing on June 27.

“I did exactly the right thing a person with common sense and a brain would do under the circumstances.”

Though drivers in National Parks are advised to drive with caution to avoid wildlife collisions, so-called "bear jams" are also an issue in wildlife areas, posing risks for other road users and potentially habituating bears to the presence of humans.

We recently reported on a temporary reduced speed limit imposed in Canada's Yoho National Park that was intended to protect a rare white bear and her cubs, however those bears were later struck and killed by vehicles in separate incidents on the same day.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.