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Grand jury indicts Moab man for theft of fossilized dinosaur track

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 6:04 p.m. MDT

A grand jury handed up an indictment Wednesday, March 12, 2014, that charges Jared Ehlers with four federal offenses for the theft of a fossilized dinosaur footprint from BLM-administered lands in Grand County. Ehlers, 35, was indicted on one count each of removal of paleontological resources, theft of government property, depredation of government property and destruction of evidence. He faces up to 45 years in federal prison if convicted. (Grand County Jail) A grand jury handed up an indictment Wednesday, March 12, 2014, that charges Jared Ehlers with four federal offenses for the theft of a fossilized dinosaur footprint from BLM-administered lands in Grand County. Ehlers, 35, was indicted on one count each of removal of paleontological resources, theft of government property, depredation of government property and destruction of evidence. He faces up to 45 years in federal prison if convicted. (Grand County Jail)

MOAB — A grand jury handed up an indictment Wednesday that charges a Moab man with four federal offenses related to the theft of a fossilized dinosaur footprint from BLM-administered lands in Grand County.

Jared Frederick Ehlers, 35, was indicted on one count each of removal of paleontological resources, theft of government property, depredation of government property and destruction of evidence.

Authorities believe Ehlers pried a fossilized Allosaurus footprint out of the ground near the Hell's Revenge off-road trail on Feb. 17. The track was later dumped off Dewey Bridge into the Colorado River, about 30 miles east of Moab.

Members of the Utah Department of Public Safety's dive team spent several hours Saturday searching the river for the fossil but came up empty.

The theft of this dinosaur track in Moab was discovered Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, by a guide from a tour group and reported to the BLM. (Bureau of Land Management) The theft of this dinosaur track in Moab was discovered Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, by a guide from a tour group and reported to the BLM. (Bureau of Land Management)

"You're searching by Braille," Grand County Sheriff Steven White said earlier this week, describing the conditions in the river.

"Everything is by hand," he said. "You have zero visibility. You're dealing with changing currents. You're dealing with obstacles. It's very hazardous diving conditions."

Saturday's river search was launched after a suspect came forward and told authorities where the three-toed dinosaur track had been dumped. It remained unclear Wednesday whether Ehlers is the person who approached law enforcement with the information.

Calls to White and to Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Megan Crandall seeking additional information about the case were not immediately returned Wednesday.

The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, which became law in 2009, protects dinosaur tracks and prehistoric fossils from vandalism and theft. Violators face criminal and civil penalties, including fines and possible jail time.

The theft of this dinosaur track in Moab was discovered Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, by a guide from a tour group and reported to the BLM. (Bureau of Land Management) The theft of this dinosaur track in Moab was discovered Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, by a guide from a tour group and reported to the BLM. (Bureau of Land Management)

A date for Ehlers' first court appearance has not been set. If he's convicted on all counts, Ehlers faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years in federal prison.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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