US Agency Confirms 112 Million Year Old Dinosaur Tracks Damaged in Utah

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by: Jon G. Fuller/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Dinosaur tracks in Utah dating back 112 million years have been irreparably damaged by heavy machinery.

The fossils are part of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite. And according to the Salt Lake Tribune, The Bureau of Land Management unintentionally caused the harm while rebuilding a boardwalk in the area.

The bureau reported minor disrepair around the rims of several footprints. But paleontologist Brent Breithaupt said the situation was almost far worse.

“Even though the overall damage to the site was minimal, had the project not been stopped, it is likely that much greater damage would have occurred with increased construction activities,” he said in a statement.

Scientists believe that the site is one of the 10 most important of its kind in the entire country due to its significant early Cretaceous tracks. Mill Canyon displays around 200 footprints from 10 dinosaur species that lived in the area over 100 million years ago.

One of the most notable fractures is affecting a theropod track.

Breithaupt also reported that a backhoe damaged a slide mark made by a prehistoric crocodile when it repeatedly drove over the imprint. Unfortunately, paleontologists can’t do much to help restore the fossils.

Breithaupt noted that the Bureau of Land Management should have been more diligent to protect the sites. And moving forward, officials need to reevaluate their plans.

Officials Will Ensure that Workers Do Not Further Damage Utah Dinosaur Tracks

In the report, Breithaupt wrote that teams should post flags around the prehistoric footprints. And before crews begin working, managers need to be brief them on where they can and cannot drive. He also believes that the agency needs to hire a staff paleontologist to help preserve the site.

The agency has been trying to fill a vacancy for a regional paleontologist position for four years.

“It’s good that we stopped more damage from happening,” said Jeremy Roberts, another specialist who believes the agency needs to pause the project. “But this will continue to plague the state until we get a paleontologist.”

The bureau also agrees with the report. And in its own statement, it announced that it will take measures to protect the Mill Creek tracksite.

“To ensure this does not happen again, we will follow the recommendations in the assessment, seek public input, and work with the paleontology community as we collectively move forward on constructing boardwalks at the interpretive site,” the agency said.

The Bureau of Land Management will have an environmental assessment revision completed this summer. And officials have committed to hiring a new paleontologist by that time. It will also make the assessment available for public comment.