Dinosaur footprints set for public display in Utah

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Dinosaur footprints set for public display in Utah
In this undated photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management, researchers and volunteers clean the surface of a new track site on BLM lands north of Moab, Utah. A dry wash full of 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks are set to be opened to the public this fall near Moab. (AP Photo/The Bureau of Land Management)
In this undated photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management, Brent Breithaupt, a BLM paleontologist, left, and Neffra Matthews, a BLM photogrammetry specialist, photograph the dinosaur track site for 3-D documentation north of Moab, Utah. A dry wash full of 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks are set to be opened to the public this fall near Moab. (AP Photo/The Bureau of Land Management)
In this June 2013 photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management, volunteers work with the Utah Friends of Paleontology, the BLM and the University of Colorado at Denver uncovering the track site north of Moab, Utah. A dry wash full of 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks are set to be opened to the public this fall near Moab. (AP Photo/The Bureau of Land Management)
This undated photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows theropod tracks found north of Moab, Utah. These tracks were left by large, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs, closely related to the new dinosaur Siats. A dry wash full of 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks are set to be opened to the public this fall near Moab. (AP Photo/The Bureau of Land Management)
This photo released by the Bureau of Land Management shows tracks made by an octopodichnus, an arthropod possibly similar to modern spiders and scorpions - in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada. The dimensions of the prints, length of the track or their relation to the reference scale present in the original photo from the source, are unknown. BLM paleontologists have confirmed the fossilized footprints were made 180 to 190 million years ago in sandstone within Red Rock, making it the first documented dinosaur tracksite in Nevada. (AP Photo/Bureau of Land Management)
This undated photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows theropod tracks found north of Moab, Utah. These tracks were left by large, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs, closely related to the new dinosaur Siats. A dry wash full of 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks are set to be opened to the public this fall near Moab. (AP Photo/The Bureau of Land Management)
Matthew Mossbrucker, director and chief curator of the Morrison Natural History Museum, holds a casting of a hatchling Stegosaurus footprint in front of a footprint of an adult Stegosaurus at the museum in Morrison, Colo., Wednesday, May 23, 2007. Two of the rare hatchling footprints were found by Mossbrucker during a dig near Morrison. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
A 200 million year old footprint of a dinosaur is one of about 150 found in Sheldon Johnson's back yard Thursday, April 20, 2000, in St. George, Utah. Paleontologists are calling the discovery one of the best collection of dinosaur footprints ever found. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
Recent undated hand out picture showing one of the 60 three-finger dinosaur footprints, some as long as 45 centimeters (18 inches) that were recently found in a cave near San Giovanni Rotondo, southern Italy, by a group of scientists headed by gealogy professor Alfonso Borsellini. The discovery added new evidence to the theory that Italy was once part of a land mass attached to the African continent. (AP Photo)
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By BRADY McCOMBS

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A dry wash full of 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks that include an ankylosaurus, dromaeosaurus and a menacing ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus rex, is set to open to the public this fall near Moab.

There are more than 200 tracks in an area smaller than a football field from 10 different ancient animals that lived during the early Cretaceous period, said Utah Bureau of Land Management paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster.

They were first discovered in 2009 by a resident. Since then, paleontologists led by a team at the University of Colorado at Denver have studied them and prepared them for display.

The tracks include a set of 17 consecutive footprints left by Tyrannosaurus rex ancestor and the imprint of an ancient crocodile pushing off into the water. The site is one of the largest areas of dinosaur tracks from the early Cretaceous period known to exist in North America, she said.

"We don't usually get this," said Hunt-Foster, a paleontologist for 16 years. "It is a beautiful track site, one of the best ones I've ever seen."

There are footprints from duckbilled dinosaurs, prehistoric birds, long-necked plant eaters and a dromaeosaur similar to a velociraptor or Utah raptor that had long, sharp claws.

In one rock formation, a footprint left behind by a large plant eater is right in the middle of prints from a meat-eating theropod, Hunt-Foster said.

The imprint of an ancient crocodile shows the chest, body, tail and one foot. Paleontologists believe it was made while the crocodile was pushing off a muddy bank into water.

Paleontologists believe the tracks were made over several days in what was a shallow lake. They likely became covered by sediment that filled them up quickly enough to preserve them but gently enough not to scour them out, Hunt-Foster said.

Over time, as more sediment built up, they became rock. They are near a fault line, where the land has moved up and down over the years, she said. Rains slowly eroded away layers of the rock, exposing the footprints.

When it opens in October, the site will have a trail leading people to the tracks with signs explaining what they are looking at. Officials are trying to raise funds to provide shade and a 1- to 2-foot high boardwalk so people can look at the tracks without being tempted to touch.

Earlier this year, a Utah man was arrested and slapped with the federal charge after authorities say he pried a piece of sandstone with a three-toed ancient dinosaur track from the Sand Flats Recreation Area near Moab. He pleaded guilty while accepting a deal that calls for him to serve one year of probation with six months under house arrest.

Paleontologist Martin Lockley of the University of Colorado at Denver has taken the lead in studying, cleaning and preparing the tracks. Their uniqueness has lured paleontologists from several countries, including from Poland, Korea and China, Hunt-Foster said.

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