Wyoming News Briefs - Friday, Oct. 23
October 22, 2020
Treasure hunter faces charges after digging in Yellowstone
CASPER (WNE) — A federal grand jury has indicted a man who claimed to have been seeking the Forrest Fenn treasure after he was found digging in a Yellowstone National Park cemetery, the U.S. Attorney for Wyoming announced Thursday.
Rodrick Dow Craythorn faces charges of excavating or trafficking in archaeological resources and injury or depredation to United States property. He pleaded not guilty Thursday to both counts and is set to stand trial on Dec. 14 in Capser.
Caythorn, 52, was allegedly found digging in the historic Fort Yellowstone Cemetery, according to the announcement. He was reportedly searching for the treasure buried by Forrest Fenn, a New Mexico art dealer who sparked a treasure hunt spanning several Mountain West states after announcing that he had hid the riches and offered clues to finding them.
According to the indictment, Craythorn unlawfully excavated or damaged the cemetery without having a permit sometime between Oct. 1, 2019 and May 24 of this year. It further alleges he caused more than $1,000 in damages.
The grand jury indicted Craythorn on Sept. 16. He faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
Craythorn’s attorney declined comment on Thursday.
Some people died while searching for Fenn’s treasure. Others have needed to be rescued, including an Indiana man who climbed into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in December. The man was later banned from the park.
Fenn’s treasure was found this summer. He died in September at age 90.
Record state park traffic continues into fall
SHERIDAN (WNE) — Despite the completion of what many consider the unofficial summer camping season, generally Memorial Day to Labor Day, this year the season has continued on with several Wyoming State Parks setting visitation records through September.
Although September is generally considered a shoulder season for Wyoming’s State Parks, this year nearly 550,000 visitors camped, fished, hiked and biked during the month. Beginning in April and lasting through September, several Wyoming State Parks enjoyed visitation numbers ranging from 100% to 200%+ above the five-year average. These numbers were seen despite all parks having been closed for camping from March 30 through May 15. However, many users still visited the parks for day-use activities such as boating, hiking and fishing.
This increased visitation not only proved to be a major economic contributor to the state’s tourism industry, but a vitally important asset to the public’s physical and mental health.
“We continue to be a great alternative. “Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resource Director Darin Westby said.
For the season, Curt Gowdy State Park saw a whopping increase of 231 percent over the five-year average with highs of 581 percent in March and 474 percent in April.
Meanwhile, Boysen State Park’s visitation saw numbers 241% above the five-year average with Seminoe and Sinks Canyon state parks registering numbers 132% and 115% above the five-year average, respectively.
So far for the year, Wyoming’s State Parks saw 4,878,765 visitors, more than a million more than last year’s record season of 3,117,039, an increase of 34%.
Driverless shuttles to be tested in Yellowstone in May
JACKSON (WNE) — Driverless, electric, low-speed shuttle vehicles are coming to Yellowstone National Park — and soon.
A contractor will start running the automated vehicles in late May in the Canyon Village area, shuttling visitors to yet-to-be-determined stops near the campground, commercial buildings and lodging areas.
The vendor, Beep Inc. Shuttles, was selected for the pilot program, which will run through next August.
“Yellowstone and the National Park Service are proactively engaging with emerging transportation technologies by looking for ways to test, pilot and learn from these capabilities,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said Wednesday in a statement. “We will continue exploring possible ways to reduce congestion and to improve visitor experience and access in heavily traveled areas of the park.”
Beep Inc. Shuttles is based in Orlando, Florida, and bills itself as the “next generation of passenger mobility.” The fledgling business, which is less than 2 years old, has landed major federal BUILD transportation grants to develop and deploy its technology.
Its driverless vehicles currently shuttle COVID-19 samples around the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Florida. Another deployment is at the 17-square-mile Lake Nona planned development, also in Florida, where Beep shuttles run four different 1-plus-mile routes.
Yellowstone also plans to launch a transit feasibility study next summer to weigh the opportunities, risks and costs of local shuttles at Old Faithful and Canyon Village.
Game violation conviction costs man hunting privileges
GILLETTE (WNE) — A Gillette man who killed a bull elk at a walk-in area and then left most of the carcass to waste must pay $4,500 in restitution and will have his hunting privileges suspended for two years.
Jacob Bloom pleaded guilty to waste or abandonment of a big game animal. Circuit Judge Wendy Bartlett placed him on six months of probation in addition to the restitution.
The case began Oct. 8, 2019, when then-Moorcroft Game Warden John Davis and South Gillette Game Warden Levi Wood responded to a call from a concerned hunter about a bull elk that had been killed on Campbell County Walk-in Area #6 off Bishop Road.
Only the head and a small amount of meat was removed. The rest of the carcass was left to waste, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Wood began an investigation that eventually identified Bloom as a suspect. Bloom was interviewed by Game and Fish law enforcement personnel June 11. He told the investigators he had killed a bull elk Sept. 30, 2019, on state land north of Gillette and had given the majority of the meat away.
But after further questioning, he admitted he killed the bull in the Walk-in Area.
“Leaving a harvested animal’s meat to waste is one of the most egregious crimes we see in wildlife law enforcement,” Wood said. “In this case, it is even more offensive because the crime occurred on a Walk-In Area where a private landowner has generously provided access to their land for public hunting opportunity.”