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MOAB — A dinosaur footprint, millions of years old, was stolen from southern Utah, and there still aren’t any suspects.
Tuesday night, the Bureau of Land Management said vandalism is a big problem in the area and that the missing dinosaur track is just one of many historical artifacts stolen or ruined.
We arrived at the BLM office in Moab at about 1 p.m. and didn't have enough time to go to all the sites where vandalism has been happening.
The thing is, we're not talking about garbage that can easily be picked up and thrown away. This vandalism can't really be fixed and destroys something that can't be replaced.
BLM paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster has seen so many dinosaur tracks during her career, she’s lost count. She also can't tell you how many tracks she has seen ruined.
"When I see something that has been damaged, it’s like somebody punches me in the gut," Hunt-Foster said.
Hunt-Foster sees fossils, tracks and other things most people just drive right by in the Moab area.
"I’ve kind of just trained my eyes to it," she said.
But not all tracks are hidden from everyone, and it's those tracks that are in danger, like some found near the Poison Spider Trailhead where people have been pouring material into them trying to make casts out of them.
"When you try to pull something that's hard out of something else that's hard, you end of doing a lot of damage to the tracks," Hunt-Foster said.
Or a dinosaur track which, well, is gone. Someone tried to cut a section of the rock and destroyed it.
"I would imagine when they chiseled it, it flaked apart,” Hunt-Foster said. “I would be really surprised if it came out in one piece."
There are signs at some of the sites letting people know that vandalizing within the area is illegal, but for whatever reason, some just don't obey.
"If a person has criminal intent, I can't prevent them from crossing over this fence and defacing this rock art," BLM archaeologist Don Montoya said.
Part of the problem is BLM rangers can't be everywhere, especially in remote areas. Petroglyphs like the ones in Moonflower Canyon were ruined when people carved their names, initials or dates right over them. Art — hundreds, maybe thousands of years old — was ruined in seconds.
"It's beyond my comprehension,” Montoya said. “I don't know that it’s ignorance — people not knowing. I don't know if it's people not caring. I don't know if it's just stupid. How do you fix that?"
I think some people think they will get rich off it, make millions by selling dinosaur tracks, and some people just want something neat at home to have on their shelf, show off to their friends, or use as a doorstop; something to decorate their homes with.
For whatever reason, the BLM said vandalism seems to be happening more.
"I think some people think they will get rich off it, make millions by selling dinosaur tracks, and some people just want something neat at home to have on their shelf, show off to their friends, or use as a doorstop; something to decorate their homes with," Hunt-Foster said.
The BLM asks visitors that see vandalism to report it to the police. Also, there are volunteers called "site stewards" who go to areas to help the BLM monitor what's going on and to check on any new vandalism. If you'd like to be a site steward, contact the BLM for information.