Please Don’t Vandalise our Dinosaur Tracks

Visitors to the Red Fleet State Park in Utah have been requested to refrain from throwing rocks into water as some of these rocks are actually the fossil footprints of dinosaurs from the Early Jurassic.  Tourists to the Park, which is located ten miles north of the small town of Vernal, off Highway 191 in north-eastern Utah, have been throwing lumps of sandstone into a reservoir and some of these pieces of rock contain the 200 million-year-old fossilised tracks of dinosaurs.

Examining a Dinosaur Footprint at Red Fleet State Park

Dinosaur fossil footprint (Utah).

One of the three-toed dinosaur tracks at Red Fleet State Park (Utah).

Picture Credit: Utah State Parks

Commenting on this very unusual tourist problem, Park Manager Josh Hansen stated:

“While this problem is quite alarming, often times the people who are doing this have no idea they could be destroying millions of years of history.  Some of the tracks are very distinct to the layperson, but just as many are not.  That is why it is important to not disturb any rocks at the dinosaur trackway.”

Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Tracks

The Red Fleet State Park attracts tourists from far and wide.  It is a haven for bikers, walkers, campers and for outdoor sports enthusiasts and the area is famous for its dinosaur track sites.  However, the ancient trace fossils, making this attraction a real-life “Jurassic Park”, are being damaged and destroyed, either unwittingly or through deliberate vandalism.  The large, three-toed prints (tridactyl prints) represent carnivorous dinosaurs (Theropods), a number of these tracks have been attributed to the Early Jurassic species Dilophosaurus wetherilli.

Devan Chavez, a spokesman for the Utah Division of State Parks, who has corresponded with Everything Dinosaur, has stated that at least ten of the larger footprints left by dinosaurs, ranging from eight to forty-three centimetres in size, have been destroyed in the last six months alone.  Josh Hanson explained that by deteriorating the track site, people are taking away the experience from thousands of others.  Not only that, but this act also constitutes a crime.

One of the Three-toed Dinosaur Footprints at the Park

Dinosaur fossil footprint (Utah).

A three-toed dinosaur footprint (Red Fleet State Park, Utah).

Picture Credit: Utah State Parks

Utah has very strict laws in place to help preserve its precious prehistoric heritage.  Anyone caught vandalising these fossil sites can face very severe penalties, including hefty fines and even imprisonment.  Problems with damage to dinosaur fossils are not just limited to this single tourist attraction.  Everything Dinosaur has reported on a number of incidents of fossil theft and vandalism in the state of Utah.

To read about the damage to a dinosaur bone at the nearby Dinosaur National Monument (Utah):  Fossil Damaged at Dinosaur National Monument

The Park authorities were keen to stress that it is illegal to displace rocks that contain trace fossils and disturbing fossil sites would be regarded as an act of vandalism.

Helping to Educate Visitors

Park staff have taken steps to help raise awareness, the Park’s blog site has covered this issue and the number of signs around the Park alerting visitors to the problem have been increased.  Utah State Parks believes education can play a big part in stopping this kind of behaviour.  To help combat it, they have been asking everyone to spread the word.  Everything Dinosaur is happy to help where it can to publicise this problem and to play a role in helping to prevent further damage.

Visitors are requested not to throw any rocks in the dinosaur track area at Red Fleet State Park.  Please help the authorities keep the area preserved and beautiful for visitors both tomorrow and for generations to come.

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