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National park visitor sentenced to prison for thermal trespass in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park – In a recent court ruling, Viktor Pyshniuk, a 21-year-old resident of Lynwood, Washington, was sentenced to seven days in jail for thermal trespass at Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park (YNP). Pyshniuk was also sentenced to two years' unsupervised release and a two-year ban from the YNP for violating the park closure. Additionally, he was fined $1,500, along with an additional $50 in court costs.

Trespassing in Yellowstone National Park caught on camera.

The incident occurred when a YNP law enforcement officer responded to a report of a trespasser at Steamboat Geyser, located in the Norris Geyser Basin. A park employee had seen Pyshniuk climb over the fence and get dangerously close – within 15 to 20 feet – of the geyser's steam vent. The employee took a photo of the incident, which showed Pyshniuk had clearly left the designated walking area. When confronted, Pyshniuk admitted he left the boardwalk to take photos. The officer then explained the dangers and illegality of his actions, emphasizing the dangerous nature of the thermal area, which includes fragile soil layers, geothermal mud pots, and heated steam and water.

Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick, who imposed the sentence June 4, emphasized the importance of deterring both the defendant and the public from such actions. She expressed concern that Pyshniuk's behavior could set a dangerous precedent for other visitors, which could lead to widespread rule violations and significant damage to the park.

Acting United States Attorney Eric Heimann emphasized the seriousness of the offense, stating, “Trespassing into the closed thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park is dangerous and harms natural resources. In cases like this, where we have strong evidence that a person willfully ignored signs and entered a closed spa area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including prison time.

Steamboat Geyser, known as the tallest active geyser in the world, is also one of the most unpredictable and dangerous. It can erupt at heights ranging from six to 300 feet, with intervals between eruptions varying widely from three to 89 days, according to the YNP website. Judge Hambrick noted that the three-foot fence around the boardwalk makes it clear that the area is off-limits.

This case was thoroughly investigated by Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ariel Calmes.

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