A TUG-of-war between federal officials and a private...

salmagundi

August 25, 1992

A TUG-of-war between federal officials and a private research firm over the remains of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur has resulted in damage to the animal's bones, an Associated Press report says.

The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research paid $5,000 to dig out what has been called the largest, most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found after its discovery in South Dakota. The institute had planned to give the dinosaur to a nonprofit museum in Hill City, S.D., but since it was found on federal land, federal officials have claimed it. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, noting that the land in question is held in trust for a Sioux rancher, has also claimed the bones.

The dispute could not be resolved amicably, so a federal prosecutor seized the skeleton in May. The bones have been stored in a machine shop at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, where paleontologists say it is suffering from pyrite disease, a condition in which the mineral pyrite, also known as fool's gold, can decay and cause fossilized bones to weaken and break. So the scientists want the dinosaur given back to the research firm whose specialists know how to care for dinosaur fossils. They made their points in a two-day federal hearing to determine who should have custody of the king of the large carnivores.

So much fuss over a dead dinosaur. From this remove, it's pretty clear that if the old Terrible Lizard were alive and stomping around the South Dakota hills, chomping on cattle and tearing up farmsteads and ranch houses, none of the people so eager to take custody now would want to be within 500 miles of it.

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