While the allosaurus track stolen from slickrock near the Sand Flats Recreation Area east of Moab, Utah, has not yet been found, the man who took them is in custody and the search for the stone containing them continues.
A federal grand jury in Utah charged Jared Ehlers, owner of Ehlers Construction in Moab, with the following:
Violations of federal law in connection with the excavation and removal of a three-toed dinosaur track from the Hell’s Revenge area of the Sand Flats recreation.
It’s believed Ehlers used pry bars to remove one footprint piece from the famous set of 20 at the site on February 17 and later dumped it in the Colorado River 30 miles east of Moab.
Utah Bureau of Land Management paleontologist Rebecca Hunt-Foster says the dinosaur tracks at 190 million years old and holds some hope the rock will survive long enough in the river to be found. She put it this way:
Instead of being just a pure sandstone, it has a limestone layer in it, which is a little harder than the sandstone itself. Its chemical compound is just a little bit different, which makes it a little more resistant (to erosion).
The search continues for this cherished print from Utah’s state fossil and locals are offering a reward that has reached $7,000.
The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, passed in 2009, protects dinosaur tracks and prehistoric fossils from vandalism and theft. Ehlers faces one count each of theft, depredation, removal, and destruction of government property. If convicted, destruction of evidence could get him 20 years in prison while the other counts have sentences of five or ten years.
This is one time when 20 years on a rock pile doesn’t sound like cruel or unusual punishment.