U.S. National Park graffiti vandal spotted through social media

By Eric M. Johnson

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The National Park Service said on Thursday it was investigating a New York artist as a suspect for graffiti vandalism in parks across the Western United States after she posted at least one picture of herself defacing a protected park on social media.

One photo obtained by the blog Modern Hiker and shared with the National Park Service shows the artist putting the finishing touches on an acrylic drawing of a cigarette-smoking woman at Utah's Canyonlands National Park in June.

Other photographs show other graffiti, such as a woman with blue hair at Oregon's Crater Lake and a bald man with a snake protruding from his mouth at California's Yosemite, all signed "Creepytings" and dated 2014.

"It's especially egregious to a park visitor who has worked very hard to get somewhere as far off as Death Valley or Crater Lake only to be hit by the blight of what you are more used to seeing in an urban area," said National Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet.

The woman is suspected for vandalism in at least 10 National Parks, including the Grand Canyon in Arizona and California's Joshua Tree, where she can be seen in a photograph crawling among a protected cave painting.

The hiking blog sent the photos it gathered earlier this month by screenshot from the suspect's Instagram and Tumblr accounts to the National Park Service on Wednesday, sparking the investigation.

Picavet said the artist had not been arrested or charged with a crime. Reuters could not independently verify the blog's report or the authenticity of the photos.

Officials were working out the best ways to remove the acrylic graffiti, which could cause permanent damage, Picavet said.

Vandalism is a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine, though the artist could face felony charges depending on which surfaces she painted, Picavet said.

(Editing by Sandra Maler and Dina Kyriakidou)