Four Indiana visitors to Yellowstone National Park have been invited to return to Mammoth Hot Springs late next month...to 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.