No luck in underwater search for Utah dinosaur footprint
Published: March 10, 2014 09:09AM
Updated: March 9, 2014 10:25PM
| Courtesy BLM Jared Ehlers, of Moab, is accused of dislodging a piece of sandstone with a three-toed ancient dinosaur track from the Hell's Revenge jeep Trail in the Sand Flats Recreation Area near Moab. Ehlers is charged under a federal law passed in 2009 to protect paleontological artifacts. The print was stolen near Moab on Feb. 17 or 18. The print is about 1 foot by 2 to 3 feet and was left by a three-toed meat eating dinosaur ó likely an ancestor of the Utah state dinosaur, Allosaurus, experts said.

The dinosaur footprint removed from the slickrock near Moab has not yet been found, federal and state officials said Sunday.

Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney for Utah, and Megan Crandall, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management office in Utah, both confirmed divers were not successful in retrieving the 190-million-year old footprint on Saturday.

“They did not get lucky on the dive,” Crandall said.

Divers were not searching again Sunday, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

DPS divers worked with a Grand County team to search the Colorado River below Dewey Bridge on State Road 128, about 32 miles northeast of Moab.

Utah Highway Patrol Capt. Doug McCleve, the dive team’s commander, on Sunday said the river was not deep, but the current and what he called “pitch dark” visibility made the search difficult. The dive team used sonar to identify objects that could be the footprint and then directed a diver — crawling on his hands and knees — to those objects.

“There are, as you can imagine, a lot of rocks down in the river bed,” McCleve said.

McCleve said the dive team searched the area that was requested and there are no plans for the team to return.

The search commenced after a break in the case. Law enforcement found a suspect and discovered the footprint had been dumped below the bridge.

Law enforcement has not disclosed the name of the suspect. Rydalch, in an email, said no charges had been filed.

The footprint was one of about 20 in slickrock in the Hell’s Revenge jeeping area near Sand Flats Recreation Area, just east of Moab. An off-road tour operator took visitors to see the print on Feb. 18, only to find it was gone.

Twitter: @natecarlisle