Looters raid dinosaur pit in southern Utah | VailDaily.com

Looters raid dinosaur pit in southern Utah

HANKSVILLE, Utah ” A major new dinosaur bone pit has been plundered.

The Bureau of Land Management says somebody made off with some of the fossilized bones of a long-necked sauropod and a horned allosaurus last week from a southern Utah site near Hanksville.

The bones had been partially excavated by the Burpee Museum of Natural History of Rockford, Ill., which had permission to remove them.

They were jacketed in plaster and covered in dirt. The bones were too large to be hammered out of a sandstone cliff during Burpee’s first digging season in June.

The Hanksville-Burpee site, as it’s being called, holds a cache of well-preserved dinosaur bones, petrified trees, and fossilized clams and coniferous trees dating some 145 million years old.

The site ” a “logjam” of remains believed to have been washed into place by an ancient stream ” was known to locals but yielded an astonishing collection when Burpee began organized digging.

“It was much bigger than anybody anticipated,” BLM paleontologist Scott Foss told The Associated Press on Thursday. “As soon as they started digging, the found stuff everywhere.”

The looters peeled back the plaster casts and made off with fossilized parts of the plant and meat eaters, smashing other pieces still anchored in rock, he said.

The sauropod grazed on plants. The allosaurus was a horned meat eater.

The site holds other partially excavated bones, but they had been hidden under dirt.

“It appeared they rooted around, but we have no evidence anything else was taken,” Foss said.

Burpee has a permit to take the bones for display at the Illinois museum.

Federal approval is required for excavation of fossilized creatures with backbones from public land.

Burpee researchers who planned to return for digging next spring will hasten back this fall to secure other finds, Foss said.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported the looting on its Web site Thursday.

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