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Rangers Catch Snowmobilers Riding Illegally in Yellowstone National Park's Backcountry


Four Indiana visitors to Yellowstone National Park have been invited to return to Mammoth Hot Springs late next face charges of snowmobiling illegally in the park's backcountry.

Rangers caught the four, who had rented snowmobiles, more than a mile inside the park boundary near West Yellowstone. They'll have to return to the park in late February to appear before the federal magistrate in U.S. District Court.

Park officials were not immediately available to say whether the four also faced charges of snowmobiling in the park without a guide, as the current snowmobile regulations require.

While limited, managed snowmobile and snowcoach travel over groomed, snow-packed park roads is permitted in Yellowstone, the use of snowmobiles in the backcountry, on trails, and off road has always been prohibited.

Violators face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail as well as forfeiture of their snowmobiles. Additional charges of damage to park resources can result in another $5,000 fine and an additional six months imprisonment.

In recent weeks, rangers have observed off-road snowmobile tracks up to two-and-a-half miles inside Yellowstone’s backcountry. Rangers regularly patrol the boundary and have the option to ticket, arrest, and confiscate the snowmobiles of violators, who can expect to face aggressive prosecution.


I'm glad to hear that Yellowstone NP authorities caught these snowmobile riders in the act, and that appropriate actions are being enforced. I spent last summer working in YNP while living in Cooke City, MT. The snowmobile riders that I encountered up there were some of the most disrespectful visitors to the backcountry up there.

I am so glad that the Rangers caught these people riding their snowmobiles illegally. I hope that they get the book thrown at them and are invited not to visit this beautiful park again.

Hmmmmm.... I wonder if they were carrying firearms....

When I was out skiing with Buffalo Field Campaign, they pointed to an area outside the park where snowmobiles were illegal and signs clearly posted. There were snowmobile tracks everywhere, which made it scary to ski in the area. The worry of snowmobiles in areas where only skiing is allowed was a particular concern from people who ski there every day. I think this might be a common problem, especially on the west side of the park and would appreciate reports on what the truth is.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

It was indeed indicated in the story that this is pretty common, and that catching them is relatively rare. One would hope that the magistrate in Mammoth will "throw the book" at these guys as an example to others. As a general statement, I have found that the easier it is for someone to access the back country the less respect they have for it. That is that hikers tend to have the most respect, snowmobilers and ATVers the least. I know there are exceptions. As I said, this is a general statement.
Whatever you think about the "snowmobiles in the park" issue, acts like this should be universally condemned. It is not hard to recognize that if you go east from West Yellowstone, you are entering the park.

It's also not hard to understand because the boundary is very clearly marked both by the Western Boundary trail, as well as a gazillion signs.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

These illegal snowmobilers have no resprect for laws, nature or wildlife ! I would like to see more effort put into catching the ones who disrepect what so many of us care for.
Hopefully, the justice system will throw the book at them and make them an example for all.

Jim, you have reason to be concerned. A dog musher near the village of Kotzebue, Alaska was recently killed when he was rammed from behind by a speeding snowmobile. The impact severed his leg. A snowmobile traveling at high speed and with reduced visibility can easily exceed his stopping ability and become a deadly missile. Where drivers illegally invade lands off limits to snowmobiles the chances are that they will not be safe drivers.

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