Reckless Yellowstone tourist films mother bear and cubs just inches away, to onlookers' horror

Cinnamon-colored black bear cub
(Image credit: Getty)

A tourist at Yellowstone National Park shocked other visitors when he failed to move aside for a cinnamon-colored black bear and her cubs as they crossed a road, recording them on his phone even when the sow approached within a few inches to get between the man and her young.

The incident was recorded by Tony Jackson, and shared via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out bad behavior at US National Parks. "The ranger said if that had been a grizzly it would have been a fatality," wrote Jackson.

Bears prefer to avoid confrontations with humans, but can become aggressive if they or their offspring are threatened. 

"Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs," warns the National Park Service (NPS). "Never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs."

Intentionally approaching and disturbing wildlife in National Parks is illegal, and as several commenters noted, deliberately getting close to bears is dangerous to both people and animals. If a bear attacks a human, even if threatened, it's likely to be euthanized for public safety.

If caught, visitors who approach bears risk fines, and even jail time. In 2021, a woman from Illinois was prosecuted for approaching a grizzly and her cubs at Yellowstone. As the Guardian reported at the time, Samantha Dehring was jailed for four days, fined $1,000, and ordered to make a $1,000 community service payment after pleading guilty to "willfully remaining, approaching and photographing wildlife within 100 yards".

"The park is not a zoo where animals can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure," said attorney Bob Murray. "They roam freely in their natural habitat and when threatened will react accordingly. Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist."

For advice on how to stay safe, see our guides what to do if you meet a bear and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.