Turkey-sized Dromaeosaur to be Handed over for Research

A nearly complete dinosaur skeleton, representing an unknown genus, that had been involved in a long-running legal battle is being handed over to researchers.  The small dromaeosaur, nicknamed “Sid Vicious” was the subject of a court case when local palaeontologist Nathan Murphy was accused of stealing the fossil from a private ranch in Montana.  The seventy-million-year-old specimen was stored in an evidence locker and formed part of the case for the prosecution of Nathan Murphy.  Mr Murphy was accused of a number of crimes against federal law including the removal of “Sid Vicious” without the prior approval or knowledge of the land owners.  In a successful prosecution Mr Murphy was sentenced to sixty days in jail.

In a separate federal case, that took place last year, Nathan Murphy was given a further custodial sentence and a hefty fine after pleading guilty on the charge of stealing fossils from federal land.

The raptor fossil will be prepared by scientists at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, based in South Dakota.  It is hoped that the specimen will be ready for a museum display exhibit by May.

To read the original story about the fossil theft: Local Fossil Collector Charged with Theft.

Commenting on the little dromaeosaur, President of the Black Hills Institute, Pete Larson stated:

“It’s a mean and nasty little dinosaur.  Even though it’s not very big, you wouldn’t want to meet it in a dark alleyway”.

After Murphy’s conviction in state court, the raptor fossil was turned over to the owners of the property, Bruce and Barb Bruckner, and they in turn sent it to the Black Hills Institute so that it could be prepared for display.

When asked about the delay in allowing researchers to study the fossil, Pete Larson said:

“What’s a few years here and there when you’re talking about a dinosaur that’s 70 million years old.  The science could wait.  It’s more important to do things properly and make sure the proper owner was identified.”

To compensate the Black Hills Institute for the many hundreds of hours of preparation work involved, they have been allowed to sell commercial replicas.  It has been estimated that to own your very own seventy million year old dromaeosaur customers would expect to pay somewhere around $12,500 USD for a museum quality replica.

One replica will be donated by the Bruckners and the Institute to the new Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station in Malta, the field station is close to where the fossil was originally found.

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