CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Yellowstone National Park rangers have not been able to contact or locate a group of men from Vancouver who allegedly walked onto a sensitive hot spring, and it’s possible they have returned to Canada, a park official said Wednesday.
“It looks like from their social media feed that they were already back in Canada when the warrants were issued, but it is just really hard to say,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Charissa Reid said.
Rangers filed a criminal complaint Monday against three members of the group known as High on Life SundayFundayz for leaving an established boardwalk and stepping onto a geothermal feature where they allegedly snapped selfies and took video of themselves last Saturday.
The group initially posted pictures and video of their trek out on the Grand Prismatic Spring on social media, but all images that showed the men were later deleted, the criminal complaint says.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The group posted an apology on its website and social networks, expressing regret for their actions and offering to donate $5,000 to the park.
The apology says they “wandered off the laid out path” to take photos of the Grand Prismatic Spring, adding that they were “unaware of the ecological ramifications and safety precautions.”
“For this we would like to sincerely apologize to the Yellowstone park community and the public.”
In response to messages seeking comment about the matter from The Associated Press, an email from one member of the group said they were not able to talk Wednesday and referenced the group’s posted apology.
The criminal complaint names Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Justis Cooper Price-Brown. A witness provided pictures and video of the incident to rangers that show four men going about 23 metres off the boardwalk, according to the complaint.
Only three were charged because rangers were still trying to positively identify the fourth person involved, Reid said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the legal process will proceed if the men are back in Canada.
John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne, was out of the office Wednesday and unavailable for comment.
Reid said Yellowstone officials are still assessing what damage may have been caused to the hot spring.
Hot springs have sensitive wet, soft bacterial mats that play a role in the colours associated with the spring, she said.
“When people walk on them it actually makes like white footprints in the bacterial mat,” Reid said. “Not only does it damage the bacterial mat but it also means that other people may be tempted to walk the same path.”
Yellowstone distributes literature to visitors and posts signs around geothermal features warning people not to stray off boardwalks and paths.