Fenn Treasure Hunter Must Pay for His Rescue

Appeals court pans Mark Lantis' ill-advised 2018 hunt in Yellowstone
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2021 10:45 AM CST
Fenn Treasure Hunter Must Pay for His Rescue
Mount Holmes (center), Trilobite Peak (right), and White Peaks (left foreground) are viewed from the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park on Oct. 30, 2010.   (Wikimedia Commons/Mike Cline)

A man who went in search of Forrest Fenn's famous treasure not only failed to find it but will now have to pay nearly $3,000—the cost of his airlift out of Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming's Mark Lantis—one of thousands enthralled by Fenn's hidden chest, said to contain more than $1 million in gold and jewels—set out for Mount Holmes on Aug. 2, 2018, intending to spend the day searching for the treasure, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The 40-something oil field worker took a marked trail to the base of the mountain, but after passing bear scat and fur, he decided to take an unmarked route back to his starting point.

Lantis—who had a phone, shovel, bear spray, and water, but no food—ended up spending a cold, wet night in the wilderness, populated by grizzly bears, mountain lions, and wolves, reports the Washington Post. Rangers coached Lantis on how to get out of the backcountry the following day, but he eventually requested help. As it was too late for a rescue on foot, a helicopter was ordered at a cost of $2,880. An appeals court judge described "recklessness of the highest magnitude" last week in upholding a 2019 ruling by a federal judge, who ordered Lantis to pay back the cost of the rescue and banned him from Yellowstone for five years. He was also sentenced to five years of probation, per the Mercury News.

"I don't believe at any point I made a bad decision," Lantis had announced at his sentencing, per the Post. But the appellate judge said he "ensured he would be lost in the dark in an area of the Park with a substantial grizzly bear population" without adequate supplies. Yellowstone officials responded to 21 incidents related to Fenn's treasure from 2013 to 2020, according to Chasing the Thrill, Daniel Barbarisi's 2021 book about the deadly hunt for the chest, which has since been found. "What do [rescuees] care that it costs two thousand, ten thousand dollars," the book quotes a fire department employee as saying. "They just want to get back out. Then it happens again." (This treasure hunter ended up in prison.)

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