Police Investigation after Isle of Skye Dinosaur Prints Damaged

The police are hunting a man suspected of damaging two 165 million-year-old dinosaur footprints by attempting to make plaster casts of them.  The alleged vandalism occurred at An Corran beach, Staffin on the Isle of Skye.  This site is famous for its numerous dinosaur footprints and tracks that have been preserved in sandstone exposures along the shoreline.

The incident was confirmed in the official Lochaber & Skye Police Twitter feed which stated:

“Unfortunately, we can confirm we are investigating reported damage to the dinosaur footprints at Staffin yesterday. Were you in the area?  It would appear a male driving a campervan was possibly responsible for pouring plaster into two of the prints.”

One of the Three-toed Dinosaur Prints at An Corran Beach

Dinosaur footprint (Isle of Skye).

One of the three-toed dinosaur prints from the An Corran beach near Staffin (Isle of Skye).

Picture Credit: John Allan with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows one of the three-toed tracks that are exposed at low tide along the beach at An Corran.  The ten pence coin provides scale.

Middle Jurassic Footprints

The Isle of Skye is famous for its extensive dinosaur tracks and footprints.  The majority of the prints located at Staffin represent the movement of large Ornithischian dinosaurs (Ornithopods).  These trace fossils and others like them on the island, are helping palaeontologists to learn more about the different types of dinosaur that roamed this part of Europe some 165 million-years-ago.

Last December, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a series of Sauropod dinosaur prints in Duntulm Castle Bay, around ten miles from the An Corran site.  This discovery helped to reinforce the view that the sediments on the Isle of Skye preserve a unique record of the large biota that existed during the Bathonian and Callovian faunal stages of the Middle Jurassic of Europe.  To hear that the actions of a thoughtless and selfish individual may have damaged these rare fossils is very sad.

To read about the discovery of the Duntulm Castle prints: Isle of Skye Sauropods and their Watery World

Attempting to make casts or interfere with the prints could cause irreparable damage to these extremely rare trace fossils.  The local council’s Education Chairperson Drew Millar commented:

“It’s absolutely shocking that someone would go to such lengths to destroy something that’s been around for such a long time.  This is one of the major tourist attractions on Skye, some of the oldest proof of dinosaurs in this part of the world.”

Dinosaur Fossil Site Vandalism

Sadly, such incidents are becoming increasingly common.  It is not just the actions of overzealous fossil hunters, some of the recent acts of vandalism have been motivated by a desire to make money by selling fossils illegally.  In 2012, Everything Dinosaur reported on the removal of fossil dinosaur footprints from a site in the Vale of Glamorgan (Wales).

Late Triassic Dinosaur Tracks in the Vale of Glamorgan

Vale of Glamorgan dinosaur tracks.

Dinosaur Tracks from the Late Triassic.

To read an article about the Welsh dinosaur fossil theft: Dinosaur Footprints Stolen from the Vale of Glamorgan

Commenting on the reported An Corran beach fossil damage, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This is really sad news, let’s hope the damage is not too significant.  We suspect the perpetrator knew something about this particular fossil site, as the sandstone prints are usually only exposed at low tide and they are often covered by a layer of sand.  It is only after bad weather in winter that the sea washes away the sediment revealing the prints.”

Lochaber and Skye law enforcement officers have appealed for witnesses and have asked for anyone with any knowledge of the incident to come forward.

Note

Everything Dinosaur team members contacted the museum at Staffin for clarification of this story.  The incident did involve a member of the public attempting to make a plaster cast from a footprint.  However, it was a Theropod footprint that was involved and not Ornithopod as stated in the media reports.

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