Two videos posted to social media over the weekend show a mysterious man attempting some rather dangerous, hot-headed tricks in Yellowstone National Park (YNP).
The first video was posted to Facebook on Septemeber 14 by Ashley Lemanski, who was visiting the park with her family when she saw an unidentified man walking on Old Faithful Geyser. In it, the man is seen standing close to the center, at one point laying down and possibly reaching his hand into the hole. He then stood up before taking a few steps to the left and approaching nearer to it. People in the background are heard yelling “get off Old Faithful” and “get back on the boardwalk”.
Lemanski said some people speculate he was trying to urinate in the geyser and told a local television station that the man was followed by a park ranger as he walked back to the parking lot and was promptly arrested.
“They had him on the ground for several minutes, first laying and then sitting, in handcuffs, and then took him to the back of the SUV cop car,” she explained. “He was back there for the remainder of our time at the park, about 30 minutes. We didn’t see if they drove him off or not.”
A second video captured over the weekend shows a similarly dressed man near Beryl Spring, one of the park’s hottest thermal features located about 64 kilometers (40 miles away) from Old Faithful. The footage captured by park visitor Kelly Kosciuk shows the man trespassing off the boardwalk and sitting along the edge of the thermal spring as steam rushes around him.
IFLScience reached out to the park, who confirmed rangers arrested the man and charged him with multiple violations, including being off-trail in a thermal area. It remains unclear if it is the same man in both videos, but officials with the park say that although the man is under investigation, he is not in custody because he was released on bond.
“We take these cases very seriously,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk. “The law requires people to stay on boardwalks or marked trails in thermal areas. Anyone who ignores this law risks their life and possibly the lives of emergency personnel.”
According to the park website, hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature.
One of nearly 500 geysers in Yellowstone, Old Faithful is the park’s most famous water feature and gets its name from its predictable spouting schedule. It erupts every 94 minutes on average, with a height from 32 to more than 54 meters (106-180 feet) tall. These eruptions are quick, often lasting just 1.5 to 5 minutes, but can expel anywhere between 3,700 and 8,400 gallons of water. If the force of water doesn’t get you, the temperature surely will – the water is a whopping 95.6ºC (203ºF) at the vent.
It’s one of three instances that have taken place at YNP this year. In August, Raymond Reinke was sentenced to 130 days in jail after he was caught pestering a bison. Just last month, a visitor was knocked down by an elk after coming too close to the animal. In 2016, a 23-year-old man died when he fell into a hot spring after attempting to check its temperature.