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Paleontologist Excavates Vandalized Dinosaur Fossil

Three months after a dinosaur fossil was found vandalized in Dinosaur National Monument, the mineralized bone has been excavated and taken to Brigham Young University for repair. On Tuesday, BYU paleontologist Brooks Britt traveled to the monument outside of Vernal to remove the damaged humerus from the rocks along the Fossil Discovery Trail.

Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the monument, said the damaged juvenile sauropod bone was among the most prominent fossils on the trail.

“You could see that it looked like someone had taken a rock and like hit it or smashed it to break this chunk free,” Johnson said.

The unknown vandal removed a chunk of bone the size of a fist, and left lasting damage to the remainder of the 2 and a half foot long fossil. Cracks left in the humerus made the fossil susceptible to accelerated erosion, and prompted monument officials to bring in the paleontologist to excavate.

“Brooks has taken it back to BYU, they are going to do some stabilization where they do things to the cracks and seams in it so it doesn’t break apart anymore,” Johnson said. “It will be returned for us and we’ll be looking to create some kind of exhibit display and talk about threats to fossil resources, which include black market theft for people who want them in their private collections to just a person who might do a smash and grab like this.”

Johnson said if any good can come out of this situation, it’s that visitors to the monument can learn about the importance of protecting the fossil resources that belong to them, as stakeholders in public lands.

Vandalism isn’t common in the monument and officials won’t be making any major changes to security.