Washington Man Receives Jail Sentence for Thermal Trespass and a Closure Violation in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park sign at the North Entrance; Jim Peaco; October 1992

The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports 21-year-old Viktor Pyshniuk, of Lynwood, Washington, was sentenced to seven days in jail for thermal trespass at Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park (YNP). In addition, he was placed on two years of unsupervised release and received a two-year ban from YNP for a closure violation. The court also ordered Pyshniuk to pay a $1,500 fine, $30 mandatory court processing fee and $20 special assessment.

According to court documents, a YNP law enforcement officer was dispatched to the thermal area at Steamboat Geyser by an on-duty park employee who reported a person walking off the boardwalk at that location. The employee had taken a photo of the defendant who had clearly crossed over the fence and was walking up the hillside within 15-20 feet of Steamboat Geyser’s steam vent. When contacted, Pyshniuk told the officer he left the boardwalk to take photos.

While speaking with Pyshniuk, the officer showed him the signs posted throughout the area stating it is illegal to leave the boardwalk and explained that walking in a thermal area is very dangerous due to possible weak ground layer, the geothermal features of mud pots, heated steam and water, and all other dangers associated with walking in a heated, unpredictable geothermal area.

Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick imposed the sentence on June 4. During sentencing she explained to the defendant that the sentence was designed to deter him, specifically, but also the public from leaving the boardwalk in this area. She expressed her concern that the defendant’s actions were seen by the people around him, and they might have thought it was okay to do the same thing. And if every visitor to YNP disobeyed the rules, the park would be destroyed, and no-one would be able to enjoy it.

“Trespassing in closed, thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park is dangerous and harms the natural resource,” said Acting United States Attorney Eric Heimann.

“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.”