On August 23, a Michigan man appeared in federal court after he allegedly ventured off-trail in a thermal area of Yellowstone National Park and burned himself in a scalding-hot thermal feature. Forty-nine year-old Jason D. Wicks of Hillman, Michigan pled not guilty to the charges. According to a press release issued yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice District of Wyoming and shared by the National Park Service, he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.
Lori Hogan, spokesperson for the Wyoming District Attorney, told CNN that the man sustained non-life threatening burns to his foot when he entered the hot spring on the night of Tuesday, August 22. Wicks’ official charges include thermal trespass and endangering himself and others while intoxicated, according to court documents obtained by CNN.
Yellowstone is home to more than 10,000 thermal features, and the park has the highest concentration of geysers found anywhere in the world. Some of the more easily accessible geothermal areas in the park have established trails and boardwalks. Ample signage in these areas warns visitors of the extreme danger in venturing off trail.
During the summer of 2022, a dismembered foot was found floating in a thermal pool in the West Thumb Geyser Basin near Yellowstone’s Lake Village. The man was later identified as 70-year-old Il Hun Ro of Los Angeles, California. There’s speculation that Il ventured off-trail while visiting the West Thumb area and unintentionally fell into the 140-degree Fahrenheit Abyss Pool. No additional remains were ever located, but investigators did note the existence of a “fatty substance” inside the Abyss Pool where his foot was found.
As a condition of his release from custody, Wicks is banned from both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks until his charges are resolved. The incident remains under investigation, the press release states, and no trial date has been set.