Fossils More Than 200M Years Old Stolen From Utah Park

NPS offers $1K reward after Capitol Reef National Park theft
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 12:31 PM CDT
Somebody Stole Reptile-Track Fossils From a National Park
The NPS, which released this photo of the damaged trackway, says the fossils were stolen in 2017 or 2018.   (NPR)

(Newser) – Fossils of reptile tracks in Capitol Reef National Park have been dated to the Triassic period more than 200 million years ago—and their theft has been dated to some time between August 2017 and August 2018. The National Park Service, which describes the fossils as "irreplaceable paleontological resources," says they were removed from a trackway in the Utah park, NBC reports. In a press release, the NPS said it is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to the identification of those responsible.

"Vandalism hurts," the NPS said. "Some of the oldest and most extensive reptile tracks in the western United States are found within Capitol Reef National Park." Park official Shauna Cotrell tells KSL that the theft was discovered when the park posted a photo of fossils on its Facebook page and a paleontologist familiar with the site commented that something was missing.

Cotrell describes the reptile that left the tracks as an alligator-like "pre-dinosaur." The park sifted through photos and records to determine when the theft occurred. "Fossils are extremely rare. I mean, just think of all the life that has ever lived on this planet and there are specific conditions that need to happen in order for a fossil to form," Cotrell says. "They do give these glimpses back into life on Earth over these hundreds of millions and billions of years." (Read more fossils stories.)

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