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National Park Service hunting for hiker who stole 200 million year old fossil

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
(Image credit: Getty)

If you know someone who smuggled an ancient and incredibly rare fossil out of a National Park, officials are offering a reward for its return. 

As Outdoors Online (opens in new tab) reports, a visitor ignored the principles of leave no trace and hacked the Triassic fossil out of the rocks at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah roughly  five years ago. The theft was only recently confirmed, and now the National Park Service is offering a $1,000 reward for any tips or details that help catch the perpetrator.

The area surrounding Capitol Reef is known for its fossils, which are preserved in layers of sedimentary rock. A four-hour drive away, Dinosaur National Monument gives you the opportunity to walk through a vast quarry with thousands of dinosaur bones in situ.

Dinosaur and marine fossils are fairly scarce at Capitol Reef National Park itself, but there are still some to be found. The stolen fossil contains footprints of an alligator-like creature that lived around 200 million years ago.

How to help

“Vandalism hurts,” said the National Park Service in a statement. “Some of the oldest and most extensive reptile tracks in the western United States are found within Capitol Reef National Park. Fossils preserve the record of life on earth and are exceedingly rare.”

Anyone who knows anything about the theft can submit a tip online (opens in new tab), or by calling 888-653-0009. "Information from other visitors is often very helpful to investigators," said the NPS. "If you have information that could help recover the stolen fossils or that could help identify those responsible, the park asks you to please submit a tip."

If you spot an interesting fossil at a National Park, you're advised to take a picture, make a note of its location, and show it to a Park Ranger. You might just help preserve a precious piece of ancient history for future generations.

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).