Dinosaur Trackway Vandalised
Fossilised footprints of dinosaurs are exceptionally rare. As trace fossils they are evidence of the activity of dinosaurs and sometimes their behaviour such as demonstrating evidence of herding or pack hunting.
Unlike body fossils such as bones, which may be transported a long way from where the animal actually lived and died, trace fossils are direct evidence of the environment in which the animal lived. Unfortunately, another area of preserved dinosaur trackways and footprints has been unintentionally vandalised.
A series of dinosaur trackways at the base of Mount Cristo Rey in New Mexico have been splattered with pink, yellow, blue and green paint after the area, local officials believe, was used for a paint-balling game.
Ornella Jaramillo, a spokesperson for one of the museums currently studying the site commented:
“At Mt. Cristo Rey, we have [dinosaur] foot prints, more than 1,000 in this area. So, it was a real shame we have paint-balls in this place”.
She went on to add that whoever used the site for paintball shooting probably didn’t know the 210 acre site is full of theropod tracks, and it’s off limits and under preservation by a museum.
“The message we want to give is that people know this is private property. If they want to come here and play, they can’t. The only reason they can come here is on a tour,” the spokesperson added.
The tracks were first discovered in 2004, when the land was donated to a local museum (the Insights Museum). Preserving the site is not easy, as this area between Texas, New Mexico and Mexico is often used by illegal immigrants as a U.S. border crossing point and many people use the area for recreation purposes. Museum staff have a fortnight to clean up the unsightly mess, the fossilised prints are unlikely to have received too much damage but it is disappointing to note that they have been subjected to this vandalism, whether or not it was intentional.
Team members at Everything Dinosaur have come across similar incidences of vandalism. On one occasion; whilst working on a hadrosaurine bone bed in Alberta, we came across a large femur (thigh bone) still embedded in the mudstone that surrounded it, but it had been used as a signpost for local bikers looking for a particular trail. Spray paint had been put on the fossil, indicating directions to the bike trail. Unfortunately, the paintball incident is not an isolated event, there have been a number of incidents of vandalism of dinosaur fossil sites reported over the last few months.