By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Maine man who last year approached Old Faithful Geyser while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag has been banned from Yellowstone National Park as part of his sentence on a guilty plea to charges stemming from the incident.
Aaron E. Merritt, 38, pleaded guilty to trespassing on the Old Faithful Thermal area in the park last summer. He was arraigned and sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail, with credit for four days served. He was also fined $230 in court costs and a $10 special assessment fee.
Merritt was also banned from the park, although it wasn’t clear if it was a lifetime ban. He was also sentenced to 15 days imprisonment with credit for four days served.
On July 7, 2020, while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag, Merritt ran out onto the thermal area and up to the geyser at Old Faithful more than once. The thermal area surrounding the geyser is off-limits to visitors.
Merritt then failed to appear for his court hearing on July 23, 2020, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
He was arrested on June 5 in Maine and made his appearance at the Yellowstone Justice Center.
“Yellowstone National Park has rules and regulations in place to protect park resources and help keep visitors safe,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “This case ended with federal charges and time in prison, but it could have been much worse. If Mr. Merrick had fallen through the thermal feature, he would have most likely lost his life.”
Merritt is the second person to be banned from the park this week, joining an Indiana man who fought park rangers and security guards earlier this month while intoxicated. That man was banned from the park for five years.
According to a previous Cowboy State Daily story, Merritt is not the only person to face park justice recently. Jake Adams, a comedian who thought he could increase his social media following by hitting a golf ball in all 50 states, is now under investigation for hitting one near Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.