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Moab man admits to stealing dinosaur footprint

Published: Wednesday, July 9 2014 11:17 p.m. MDT

Jared Ehlers, of Moab, walks with his defense attorney Tara Isaacson after appearing in court Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A Moab man admitted in federal court Wednesday to taking a fossilized dinosaur footprint from public land and later throwing it into the Colorado River.

Jared Ehlers, 35, pleaded guilty to removal of a paleontological resource as part of plea deal in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of theft and depredation of government property and destruction of evidence and recommend he serve one year of probation, including six months' home confinement. Ehlers also will pay $15,000 in restitution.

Ehlers took a 150-pound rock containing a fossil of a three-toed dinosaur track from the Sand Flats Recreation Area in February. He then threw it in the Colorado River in March to hide the theft, according to court documents.

Grand County officials spent nearly $1,000 and the Utah Department of Public Safety $14,100 trying to recover the rock from the river. Neither was successful.

Ehlers was the first person in Utah charged under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act. Signed into law in 2009, the law protects dinosaur tracks and prehistoric fossils from vandalism and theft.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 20.

— Dennis Romboy

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