Dear nature vandal: The Web wants you

A graffiti artist is accused of defacing National Park land, and hiking enthusiasts are sniffing out the culprit online

Story highlights

  • National Park Service investigates reports of graffiti by an artist
  • 10 park sites have been defaced, including rocks and walls
  • Many of the images are signed with the phrase "Creepytings 2014"
  • Naturalists are decrying the defacement in online forums
The National Park Service is investigating reports of graffiti and other vandalism in at least 10 National Park sites throughout the western United States.
One move that could get the vandal caught? Showcasing their "artwork" on social media.
Photos have surfaced in online hiking forums of what appears to be a woman painting graffiti in scenic locales. The art includes colorful images of faces in profile and is signed with the phrase "Creepytings 2014." Images of the graffiti were apparently posted on Instagram.
Park Service officials declined to discuss cases still under investigation but a representative posted on Reddit looking for more photographic examples of the graffiti. Redditors are rallying to help. And other social media outlets aren't so quiet.
A California hiking website, Calipidder, first reported seeing social media posts about one person's paintings on National Park land. That led Modern Hiker to post several pictures of paintings that it said are by the roaming vandal.
The National Park Service would not name any potential suspects.
"While we can't discuss details of a case under investigation, we take the issue of vandalism seriously," said the park service, in a statement. "National parks exist to preserve and protect our nation's natural, cultural and historic heritage for both current and future generations. Vandalism is a violation of the law and it also damages and sometimes destroys often irreplaceable treasures that belong to all Americans."
Naturalists and hiking enthusiasts are taking to the web to decry the defacement of National Park land.
Someone has even launched a WhiteHouse.gov petition encouraging officials to throw the book at the alleged vandal for violations of federal law.
"There are forums for artistic expression in national parks because national parks inspire artistic creativity. These images are outside that forum and outside the law," the National Park Service said in a statement.
Calling the graffiti in question art is too kind, says art critic Ariella Budick. "This is appalling -- worse than graffiti," says Budick, art critic for the Financial Times. "I'm not impressed by the art, but frankly, even it were Leonardo it would be wrong."
The affected parks are Yosemite National Park, California; Death Valley National Park, California; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon; Zion National Park and Canyonlands National Park, both in Utah. There may be additional damage, which has yet to be confirmed, in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, both in California; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado; Bryce National Park, Utah.