MOAB -- Utah paleontologists are trying to figure out how to bring a large collection of dinosaur fossils near Moab back to a laboratory.
Scientists have been working to carve out a giant slab of fossils of Utahraptors and iguanodots and other dinosaurs for 10 years and would like to bring the pile back to a lab so it can be carefully picked apart.
That's easier said than done, though.
The fossils are in one, gigantic piece on steep slope just below a cliff. To extract it properly would take a sky crane helicopter from out-of-state which would cost $100,000-plus, Kirkland said. That's more than the annual budget for Kirkland and his staff.
A Utah construction company is also offering to build a large, protective box to slowly drag the fossils down the slope. But that's risky because it could flex, breaking the well-preserved fossils, Kirkland said.
"It's really a tricky," Kirkland said. "It is a logistic nightmare."
With at least one dozen well-preserved dinosaur skeletons inside, Kirkland considers the massive slab of fossils encased in mudstone to be among the most important pieces he's seen in his 40-year career. He and his team have already pulled out eight jaws of baby and adult Utahraptors.
Kirkland believes several big plant eaters, likely iguanodots, got stuck in the quicksand. Their cries or stinking carcasses probably attracted the meat-eating Utahraptors, who also got stuck in the quicksand and died.
All of them, and maybe some early water birds, are inside the fossil.
"What killed them buried them. That's why things are so well preserved," Kirkland said. "The preservation is gorgeous. All the teeth are in place."
Kirkland says the group is hoping donations may come in to help pay to fly the fossils out. The Utahraptors closely resemble the raptors from the movie, Jurassic Park, he said.
"It's turned into such an important thing. We need to get it off the hill," Kirkland said. "I don't want to leave this up there for five years because too much damage would happen."