Accused of being dangerously intoxicated and veering off the visitors’ trails in Yellowstone National Park, a Michigan man who sustained thermal burns Tuesday now faces federal charges as well.
Jason D Wicks, 49, of Hillman, Michigan, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the park’s federal court, says a Thursday statement by the office of the U.S. Attorney for Wyoming.
His two criminal charges include off-trail travel in a Yellowstone National Park thermal area and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a degree dangerous to himself or others.
One of his conditions of release is being banned from both Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Park until the case is resolved.
“This incident remains under investigation,” says the statement. A trial date is not yet set, and the citation represents allegations, not a conviction of guilt.
A Dangerous Game
Aside from being illegal, the thermal pools in Yellowstone, which can reach scalding hot temperatures and be acidic, are also dangerous.
In August 2022, a man later identified as a tourist from Los Angeles, was nearly dissolved in a Yellowstone hot pool. Only his foot was found, which yielded the DNA needed to identify him.
In June, another visitor got video of a pair of tourists who illegally left the boardwalk near a thermal pool and attempted to touch it.
“The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface,” Thursday’s statement continues. “Everyone must remain on boardwalks and trails and exercise extreme caution around Yellowstone’s thermal features.”
The Yellowstone-based federal justice system often addresses interloping on thermals with some gravity. The court in 2021 sentenced a Connecticut man to a week in jail and imposed a $1,000 payment to preservation group Yellowstone Forever.
The court banned a Pennsylvania woman from the park for two years, gave her two years’ probation and imposed nearly $500 in fines and court costs, plus $107 in restitution, after her 2020 thermal-walking incident.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.