Crime of Passion

A Venn diagram of people who like NCSE and people who like fossils would have a pretty high degree of overlap. We do a fair number of fossil-related events through NCSE's Science Booster Club Project. One message we try to stress: don't steal fossils. As I wrote in an Answer Monday many moons ago, stealing fossils from parks, even if you really like them, is a gross thing to do that ruins cool places for everybody. Stealing vertebrate fossils is particularly detrimental to future scientific research, because there are so few vertebrate fossils.

Apparently this message got through to someone. Just this week an anonymous scoundrel dropped a big chunk of fossilized wood at my house that he or she had “liberated” from Petrified Forest National Park in the early 2000s. Check it out:



This was a heavy problem to land in my lap. I decided to call the park and see what to do, but as my hand reached for the phone I was seized with fear and trepidation. What if they believed I stole it? What if they sent the Feds to my house? What if, as night fell, adrenaline-pumped cops in riot gear came to bust down my door and toss flashbangs into my crying child’s bedroom? Was I being paranoid—or was I not being paranoid enough?!?

But when I did call the people at Petrified Forest National Park they were quite nice. They did not make even the slightest attempt to arrest me. And it turns out they did want the fossil back. Here’s where they told me to send it:


Petrified Forest
1 Park Road
PO Box 2277
Petrified Forest, AZ 86028


And so that’s what I did. Pay attention, guilty parties! Shame! Repent, for the end is nigh Nye!

Mailing back a rock is not going to make a huge difference to the park. But none of the nice people I talked to had ever gotten a request like this before. Never! I think that’s pretty interesting. I mean, tons of stolen petrified wood from this park are probably hiding in American homes. I imagine the park would be amused to get any of it back. But hey—the address is right up there. Is a filched rock gracing your home? Do the right thing and send it back.

Emily Schoerning
Short Bio

Emily Schoerning is the former Director of Community Organizing and Research at NCSE.

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