A Michigan man wanted in Wyoming for venturing too close to the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park last summer has been arrested in Maine for failing to appear for a court hearing.
Aaron E. Merritt of Blanding, Michigan, whose age is unknown, appeared remotely Monday before a federal judge in Maine from the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.
He was arrested Saturday, but the circumstances aren’t included in court documents.
Merritt, wearing a raccoon fur cap and carrying an American flag, was reported to Yellowstone park rangers at about 8:30 p.m. on July 7 by other park visitors for allegedly stepping off the boardwalk from which tourists may view the geyser’s eruption at regular intervals.
When the ranger arrived a short time later, Merritt was 50 feet off the boardwalk and approaching the backside of the geyser, according to court documents. To get that close to the geyser, Merritt had to pass signs warning visitors to not step off the boardwalk.
Old Faithful was predicted to erupt at 9:08 p.m. but was five minutes early that night, the ranger said in the complaint. The eruption lasted four minutes and nine seconds.
Merritt could have been badly burned if he was off the boardwalk and close to the geyser when it erupted.
The Michigan man, who on Monday sported several facial tattoos, was due July 23 in federal court in Wyoming on the misdemeanor charge of thermal trespassing. When he did not show up, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison ordered Merritt held without bail until Wednesday when a bail hearing is scheduled.
If convicted, Merritt faces up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Tourists venturing too close to Yellowstone’s thermal attractions is a fairly common problem.
In 2019, two men were sentenced to 10 days each in jail, banned from Yellowstone for five years and ordered to pay $540 in restitution for similar conduct, according to USA Today.