The National Park Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves who stole a set of ancient footprint fossils from Death Valley National Park.
Scientists sent to document the 3- to- 5-million-year-old fossilized animal tracks realized they had been stolen and reported the theft to park rangers.
“It’s illegal to collect fossils, rocks, or anything else in National Parks,” Death Valley Superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a statement. “The purpose of National Parks is to conserve the landscape and everything it contains for the next generation.”
The National Park Service released a flier with photos of three backpackers who were in the area at the time of the theft and may have information about the crime.
Linda Slater, the chief of interpretation at Death Valley National Park, told Gizmodo in an interview that it's possible the fossils could be sold on the black market.
“But I have no idea what the value would be—the value is to the public," she added.
The park is asking that anyone with information about the theft contact the Investigative Services Branch at 888-653-0009.