Law and disorder in Yellowstone National Park - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Law and disorder in Yellowstone National Park

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -

Taking selfies with bears, walking off of the boardwalk, petting bison, even putting a newborn bison in your car-- If you commit one of these crimes in Yellowstone National Park, you answer to one man: Judge Mark Carman, magistrate judge for the park.

You've heard about the cases happening at the Yellowstone Justice Center, however, those are not the most severe cases that Judge Carman has heard in his courtroom. 

Judge Carman says, "It wasn't as shocking as a lot of other things  I see”

And Judge Mark Carman has seen a lot. The former attorney was tapped four years ago to be the U.S. magistrate judge in Yellowstone National Park.  

”I was excited.”

He has a spacious corner office overlooking the Gallatin and Absaroka Mountains. Like most federal judges he wears a tie to work—but unlike most other judges when it’s time for lunch he laces up his boots, grabs his bear spray and walks just a few short blocks to his house.

"You kind of just got to watch what you are doing”

He doesn’t want to disclose exactly where he lives for safety reasons, but this federal judge’s biggest threat? Bison, bears or wolves.

”Then I heard one that sounded like really close to my left and so we went home. It's just part of learning to live here you just be wildlife aware they have signs up to reminding people to do that,” Judge Carman said.

But many people don’t read those signs – or the pamphlets they hand out at the front gate—and they end up in front of Judge Carman.

"It's difficult to punish stupidity,” the judge said.

Perhaps the most well-known case was about the Canadian man who put a bison in his car. Judge Carman made him pay up to $735 in fines, fees and compensation. 

“His intentions were as pure as they could get,” he said.

So what are some of the more unique cases he’s seen?

“She went over and started digging, the ranger came up and couldn't believe it, I mean she's just Digging right there in the terraces, I mean that's irreparable,  they were laying down on the terraces and getting their picture taken, I mean just blatantly, they didn't care"

And in this day and age social media is helping catch people who are doing these things.

“All the time cases that would have never been known if somebody had taken a snapshot on there Kodak Instamatic and put it in their album.”

He could give them jail or impose a fine, but he usually makes them do something else.

“They had to write essays, I made them write essays," Judge Carman said. 

And he keeps his favorite ones in his top drawer tucked inside a journal.

Judge Carman doesn’t want to punish these people, he just wants to educate them. But that can be extremely hard.

"I don't know what else to do. You can't educate 4 million people.”

In the end, Judge Carman says it's all about protecting this beautiful natural resource.

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