Tourists Saved 112M-Year-Old Dino Site From Bigger Damage

Construction crews in Utah were driving equipment over sensitive areas at Mill Canyon site
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2022 9:10 AM CDT
Dinosaur Footprints Survived 112M Years, Till the Backhoe
Inspectors from the Bureau of Land Management assess the damage to the Mill Canyon site in Utah.   (US Bureau of Land Management)

(Newser) – One of the top sites in the nation to see footprints made by dinosaurs was damaged by a modern dinosaur of sorts—a backhoe. A new report by the Bureau of Land Management calls the damage done at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite in Utah irreparable, though fortunately minor in the context of the entire site, reports the Guardian. The mess unfolded in January when construction crews arrived to improve a wooden boardwalk used by visitors at the site near Moab. Members of the public were the ones to realize that trucks and construction equipment seemed to be awfully close to some of the footprints, and the BLM shut down the project when people raised the alarm, per the Salt Lake Tribune.

As it turns out, several dinosaur footprints—which have been preserved for 112 million years or so— sustained fractures around the rims, with a large theropod print in particular suffered "fragmentation," per the BLM assessment. The biggest damage appears to have come at a spot used not by a dinosaur but by an ancient crocodile that dragged itself through mud. There, the backhoe and trucks "repeatedly" drove over the spot. The BLM report states the obvious, that sensitive areas “should have been flagged for avoidance and construction crews should have avoided driving vehicles in the area," and the agency says it's putting new protocols into place to make sure the mistake is not repeated. (Read more dinosaurs stories.)

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