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Tourists Who Took Selfies With Katmai Bears Sentenced to Fines, Prison Time

The three men are also banned from entering the national parks for one year.

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A trio of tourists who illegally approached feeding brown bears on a livestream at Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve four years ago will each serve a stint in prison and pay thousands of dollars in fines, a federal court has ruled.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said that David Engleman of New Mexico and Ronald Engleman and Steven Thomas of Alaska would each pay $3,000 in fines and serve one year on probation after pleading guilty to approaching within 50 feet of the feeding bears. In addition, each of the Englemans will serve one week in prison, and Thomas will serve 10 days, and all three are banned from entering any national park for one year.

The incident in question took place on August 9, 2018, when a livestream hosted by Explore.org captured a tourist at the park’s popular Brooks Falls viewing area wading into the river and taking selfies with brown bears that congregated in the area to feed on spawning salmon. Park visitors and livestream viewers alerted park authorities, who arrested the three men. Prosecutors later identified David Engleman as the man depicted on the livestream.

In imposing the sentence, U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble cited the danger of the men’s conduct, as well as the potential impact to area tourism had one of them been injured or killed or forced the park to kill a bear. While law enforcement at the time of the incident declined to state whether or not the men were inebriated, Scoble called their actions “drunken capering, and a slap in the face to those who were there.”

In a statement, Mark Sturm, the superintendent of Katmai, wrote that “things could have ended very badly.”

“These individuals behaved carelessly and put themselves at great risk. Brown bears are fierce, territorial predators, especially when concentrated in order to feed on migrating salmon,” Sturm wrote.

The fines will go to the Katmai Conservancy, a nonprofit associated with the park, and will also support “law enforcement and other purposes,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.


From 2022