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Yosemite National Park rangers closing in on vandals responsible for graffiti

Graffiti on rocks at Yosemite National Park
(Image credit: National Park Service)

Officials investigating a spate of graffiti in Yosemite National Park say they are narrowing down their search for suspects. On May 20, around 30 sites around the park were tagged with blue and white spray paint, causing serious damage to rock structures. Now, a National Park spokesperson has told Fox26 (opens in new tab), the hunt has been narrowed down thanks to help and tip-offs from the public. 

“We’ve been working on the investigation, said spokesperson Scott Gediman. "We did, thankfully, get people call in when it was happening and people that have seen it and saw some people, so we did what we call a trail block, where the rangers block a trail."

Gediman explained that the porous nature of the rocks meant cleaning the paint off was particularly difficult, and officials are reluctant to use harsh cleaning chemicals because of the potential dangers.

"In the cracks of the rock, there’s lichen, there’s plant life that lives, there’s tree roots, so we have to be concerned about that," he said. "Also there’s wildlife – if we put these toxic chemicals on and for example, a deer licks it. So we’re going through and assessing right now.”

If you were at the park on May 20 and saw something suspicious, you can still report it by submitting a ticket on the National Park Service website (opens in new tab), emailing nps_isb@nps.gov, or calling or texting 888-653-0009.

Narrowing the hunt

Graffiti and vandalism continue to be serious problems for US National Parks. Perhaps the most notorious spate took place in 2014, when a New York City woman named Casey Nocket toured seven parks (opens in new tab) with paints and markers, and posted the resulting graffiti to her Tumblr and Instagram accounts.

In 2016, Nocket was charged with seven misdemeanour counts of damaging government property. After pleading guilty, she was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, and banned from all land controlled by the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“This case illustrates the important role that the public can play in identifying and sharing evidence of illegal behavior in parks,” said Charles Cuvelier, chief of law enforcement for the National Park Service, when Nocket was sentenced.

"It is clear that the public cares deeply for the special places that the National Park Service represents, and the resolution of this case sends a message to those who would consider such inappropriate behavior going forward.”

If found, the Yosemite vandals could face similar sentencing. "There’s defacing a national park, there’s destruction of property, there’s harm to wildlife, and there’s a whole litany of charges," Gediman said.

"We’re trying to basically build our case and not only make these people pay for what they did – literally and figuratively – but at the same time send a message that anyone who does this kind of thing, we will aggressively go after them."

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).