yellowstone national aprk
Viktor Pyshniuk can be seen walking up a hill in a thermal area at Yellowstone National Park. Prosecutors say he was about 15 feet away from a spring. Credit: NPS

Man Who Yellowstone Employees Witnessed and Photographed Trespassing Into Thermal Area Gets 7 Days in Jail

A Wyoming federal court decided to make an example of a Washington man who prosecutors say flagrantly violated Yellowstone rules.

Trespassing into a thermal area at Yellowstone National Park is a big deal. While the land is delicate and sensitive, it's also incredibly dangerous. The water, warmed by geothermal activity, can be boiling hot, acidic, and toxic. That's why a Wyoming federal court decided to make an example of a Washington man who prosecutors say flagrantly violated the rules.

A federal judge sentenced 21-year-old Viktor Pyshniuk to seven days in jail along with a two-year ban from Yellowstone National Park for trespassing into a thermal area. The judge also ordered Pyshniuk to pay more than $1,500 in fines and fees.

According to Friday's announcement, prosecutors say a Yellowstone employee saw Pyshniuk walk off the boardwalk toward Steamboat Geyser on April 19. That employee also reported the sighting to law enforcement and photographed Pyshniuk off the boardwalk.

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Prosecutors argued that the photo shows Pyshniuk walking in an area he had to hop a fence to get to, which you can clearly see in the picture. They described the area as a "hillside within 15-20 feet of Steamboat Geyser's steam vent."

And when officers arrived on the scene, they confronted Pyshniuk and showed him the posted signs stating that it was illegal to leave the boardwalk. They also explained to him the dangers of walking in a geothermal area.

Authorities warn of the dangers of Yellowstone's geothermal areas

During the June 4 sentencing hearing, Judge Stephanie Hambrick reiterated to Pyshniuk the dangers of walking in a thermal area. She explained to him that while he is being punished, he's also being used as an example. She argued that people who see him walking in the area might think it was okay to do. Then, she described the rules as protecting the park.

In a statement, Eric Heimann, the acting U.S. attorney, said: "In cases like this one where we have strong evidence showing a person has willfully disregarded signs and entered a closed, thermal area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including jail time."

According to Yellowstone's posted rules, thermal areas have injured or killed more people in the park than any other natural feature. Yellowstone officials say more than 20 people died in thermal areas since the park was established in 1872.

Back in March, actor Pierce Brosnan apologized for trespassing into a Yellowstone thermal area. While he had to pay a $1,500 fine, he also pleaded guilty.