People Are Prying Up Dinosaur Tracks and Tossing Them in the Water for Fun

CC BY 2.0. Phil Konstantin

This is why we can't have nice things.

Some 200 million years ago, in what is now arid dessert in northeastern Utah, 8-foot tall members of the raptor family roamed what was then a muddy, mossy bog. The carnivorous dinosaurs, dilophosaurus, favored one particular spot to ambush prey drinking at the edge of the swamp. In their wake, they left behind a path of hundreds of footprints in sandstone that wind up a slickrock slope. The three-toed tracks, ranging in size from 3 to 17 inches, have become a star attraction at Red Fleet State Park.

Unfortunately, however, a bunch of jerks have been ripping up slabs of the stone and hurling them into the water below.

“This problem has increased within the last six months; with a conservative estimate of at least 10 dinosaur tracks vandalized in that time,” notes the park’s website.


Phil Konstantin | Photo of a sign near the Dinosaur Trackway at Red Fleet State Park/CC BY 2.0

While the footprints are not actually fossils, they have the same protection under Utah Code – destroying them is a felony offense.

“It is illegal to displace rocks that contain the tracks,” says park manager Josh Hansen. “Disturbing them like this is an act of vandalism.”

While nobody has been charged in the latest spate, three teens were tried in juvenile court for destruction of a paleontological site at the park in 2001.

To be fair – or to be as fair as possible in the face of such a frustrating lack of care – park officials say that the people doing this are not always aware that they could be destroying millions of years of history. “Some of the tracks are very distinct to the layperson,” Hansen says, ”but just as many are not.”

red fleet

Scott Catron/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

But still, why do some people feel so compelled to disrupt nature – dinosaur tracks or not? Maddeningly, there are reports that vandalism and graffiti are rife throughout the state’s parks. “Tourists are carving their names into redrock arches,” writes The Salt Lake Tribune. “Some are spray-painting canyon walls.”

Is it wrong to wish there were still a few raptors around, waiting to ambush prey? Prey holding spray-paint cans and tossing slabs of rock into the water?

Via the AP