Washington man receives jail sentence for thermal trespass and a closure violation in Yellowstone National Park
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: June 13, 2024
Viktor Pyshniuk, 21 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.”
Steamboat Geyser is a prominent feature within YNP and the world’s tallest active geyser, but it is also the most dangerous. It has erratic and unpredictable eruptions that can rise anywhere from six to 300 feet high. In the last four years, the intervals between eruptions ranged anywhere from three to 89 days according to the YNP website: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/steamboat-geyser.htm. Judge Hambrick also explained that the three-foot fencing around the boardwalk is a clear sign that the area is closed and prohibited from entering.
This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ariel Calmes.
For questions relating to Yellowstone National Park, please contact the Public Affairs Office at 307-344-2015 or yell_public_affairs@nps.gov. You may also visit https://www.nps.gov/yell.
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