Dallas — They survived up to 95 million years of floods, droughts and tectonic tremors. But the dinosaur tracks couldn't withstand a quick strike by thieves and vandals on Grapevine Lake.
Clay Church, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said officials discovered the destruction Friday. Two of the smaller prehistoric impressions at the site had been dug up, with two others ruined by amateurs trying to make molds.
The site, first discovered in 1982 and recently exposed by low lake levels, contains about 15 large tracks and dozens of smaller impressions left by hadrosaurs, common herbivores.
This week, local media and curious children flocked to the area as federal officials tried to keep the exact location a secret.
"This isn't the first time they've become visible. Someone that's familiar with the lake and knows where they're located could have gone out there," Church said.
He called the prospect of catching and prosecuting the violators "so very remote." The tracks sit on federal land, and federal regulations prohibit their unauthorized defacement or movement.
"We do prosecute if we find the subject who did it," he said.
When lake levels are high, the tracks are underwater and safe. Church said the corps is looking to partner with someone to display them safely when levels are low. He said the idea of digging up the remaining tracks to preserve them is a possible solution, but not an ideal one.
"The fact of where they are in relation to their surrounding area has archaeological value," Church said.