Visitors at Red Fleet State Park are unknowingly throwing rocks covered in dinosaur tracks into a nearby lake. (AP)
Tourists at a Utah state park are mistaking dinosaur tracks for ordinary rocks and throwing them into a nearby lake, causing “substantial impact” to the historic site.
“The dinosaur track site is deteriorating due to human impact,” the Red Fleet State Park said in a statement posted to Facebook. “There has been a substantial impact to the track site from individuals throwing rocks (most containing dinosaur tracks) into the water over the past 6 months.”
Hundreds of prehistoric raptor tracks are imprinted in sandstone there and visitors having been throwing the slabs of stone into the reservoir.
Josh Hansen, the park manager, told The Salt Lake Tribune he recently caught a young tourist tossing rocks into the lake, and was able to intervene before two imprints from a partial dinosaur track were about to be destroyed.
"I saved that one," Hansen said. "He had already thrown multiple (tracks in the water)."
Although many of the tracks are distinguishable, there’s a good amount that are not. Therefore, the park is urging guests not to disturb any rocks at the site, as it is illegal to disturb rocks with tracks and is considered an “act of vandalism,” according to the post.
Within the last six months, Utah Division of State Parks spokesman Devan Chavez estimates at least 10 of the larger, more noticeable footprints, have vanished.
"It's become quite a big problem," Chavez said. "They're just looking to throw rocks off the side. What they don't realize is these rocks they're picking up, they're covered in dinosaur tracks."
The site location was once a swamp, where Paleontologists believe dilophosaurus -- part of the raptor family – ambushed their prey.
Although the tracks are technically not fossil, they are treated as such under Utah code and can result in a felony charge for anyone who destroys the prehistoric relics.
Chavez said the park is “cracking down” on the issue.
In 2001, three teenagers were tried in juvenile court for destroying a paleontological site at Red Fleet State Park.