FOSSIL FOOTPRINT THEFT
Press Release
For Immediate Release
Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation
Box 1348 Tumbler Ridge, BC V0C 2W0
Contact: Carolyn Golightly, President
cgolightly@nlc.bc.ca
April 21, 2004

Some time during April of this year, a person or persons, descended upon the Wolverine River Dinosaur Footprint Trail near Tumbler Ridge to commit an act of theft and vandalism. This scenic trail had been constructed through the forest with great care in 2003 by volunteers of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, Tumbler Ridge’s outdoors group.

The objective was simple: to allow residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy a few of the community’s famous dinosaur footprints and trackways in their natural setting. It soon became known as the lantern tour site, as after-dark visitors would feel the thrill of the bedrock coming alive with footprints and trackways of both meat-eating and plant-eating dinosaurs in the low-angled lantern light.
There is now one less footprint to be seen. A sledgehammer, a crowbar, a chisel, and a bit of muscle likely achieved the task in a short time, and a ragged hole is all that remains of a well preserved theropod footprint. Naturally, the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) could have done the same at the time of the original discovery, and secured the specimen for perpetuity in its collections. But in this case the TRMF preferred to scientifically document the site, make cast replicas of the more important prints, and leave the originals in their pristine state for public enjoyment.

The discovery of the theft was made while resident palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley, and TRMF Vice President Charles Helm, were conducting a group of thirty dignitaries from across Canada to the site by lantern light.

Ironically, the vandal could have purchased an exact replica of the print that was stolen for just $25 in Tumbler Ridge, but the temptation of owning or selling the original must have been too great. Through excavating a provincially designated palaentological site, a crime has been committed, which the RCMP is investigating. Any information can be called to the RCMP at (250) 242-5252, or Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-8477.

In the long term, the effects of this act may well be beneficial. Already, even those who have up until now have shown little interest in palaeontology are offended, and are asking how to visit this and Tumbler Ridge’s other publicly accessible footprint site. The TRMF will soon erect a display at the scene, including a replica of the stolen footprint, which will stimulate debate on the importance of such sites and the ever-present threats to their future. And sometimes it takes such an act, and the resulting loss, to remind politicians of the importance of adequate laws and consequences. Finally, this should quell any criticism that has been leveled at TRMF for not disclosing publicly its many other dinosaur footprint and other fossil sites.

Despite these potential positive effects, the loss of this footprint is a loss for the community, and for the generations of people that would have been able to see it in its original form. This event is therefore more likely in the short term to trigger difficult questions about the human mind, and the incentives that motivate it to act in such a malicious manner.

 

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