Finishing work for fossil

Paleontologists prepare dinosaur leg bone at Fruita lab

Julia McHugh, curator of paleontology, and Josh Smith, a freelance paleontologist, are shown with a hadrosaur leg bone in the Dinosaur Journey laboratory in Fruita. It was recently discovered near Palisade.

The 70 million-year-old hadrosaur leg bone excavated from the proposed Palisade Plunge bike route in July was delivered last week to the paleontology laboratory at Museums of the West’s Dinosaur Journey in Fruita.

Where, exactly, it goes from there remains to be seen.

Josh Smith, the paleontologist who led the July excavation, performed delicate work on it at the museum over several days, removing it from its plaster and clearing off all the rock still attached to it.

The work is necessary so that it may be catalogued and either placed in the museum’s collections or put on display.

What happens with the fossil find will depend on what scientists learn about it in the lab.

Smith hand-delivered the bone, foisted over his shoulder — still secured in the protective plaster he had wrapped around it in the field — and lugged it from his truck into a free spot on the wide sandy-bottomed troughs where various dinosaur bones are tended to by museum volunteers.

There was hardly a corner of space for the new hadrosaur bone. The troughs are packed with fossils half-embedded in rock that volunteers are “preparing,” a process that mostly consists of slowly chiseling away at, brushing and cleaning the fossils — what Julia McHugh, the museum’s curator of paleontology, calls “finishing work.”

Apatosaurus vertebrae larger than small dogs, femurs more than a yard long, and many other bones spanning more than 100 million years of Earth’s history wait quietly in the sand — used as a malleable foundation for stabilizing awkwardly shaped objects — waiting for one of 12 volunteers to come tap away at them.

A wall of windows on the lab’s south wall open into the museum halls so that Dinosaur Journey visitors may watch the work being done.

Though the excavators worked hard on the hillside above Palisade to painstakingly remove the bone from the boulder in which it was embedded, then carefully hike it off the mountain, that work was the easy part, McHugh said.

The detail work in the lab to clean the bones exquisitely and then thoroughly catalog them is much more involved, she said.

“For every one hour in the field, you’re going to spend five to six in the lab,” McHugh said.

McHugh, who’s been at Dinosaur Journey since 2014, said she’ll spend time cataloguing the clean fossils in the wintertime. At that point, she determines a final species identification for each bone, assigns it a database number, enters relevant field notes and then either tucks the bone away in the 1,500 square feet of the museum’s behind-the-scenes collections or puts it on display.

A few possible double-voting cases found

DENVER — Colorado is investigating whether a handful of voters cast two ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams said Friday that 48 people may have either voted twice in Colorado or voted in Colorado and in another state. Some 2.9 million Coloradans voted last fall.

Williams says the cases were discovered by local officials and during a post-election study of 11.5 million voter records in Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon and Washington.

Those states planned the study well before the creation of President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is investigating alleged voter fraud.

Williams says Colorado’s 48 cases were referred to law enforcement for investigation. They involve voters from both major parties as well as minor parties and independents.

All told, the five-state study uncovered 112 possible voter fraud cases.

Bears pulled from tree at Aspen mall


ASPEN — Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials tranquilized a mother bear and her two cubs that had found their way into a tree on an Aspen pedestrian mall.

The groggy mother slowly slid down the tree trunk Thursday and into a tarp held by law enforcement officials. Once she was wrapped up and put in a cage, Aspen Fire Department officials used a cherry-picker basket to get to the sedated cubs.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife area manager Perry Will says the mother bear and her two cubs appeared healthy and will be taken “very close to the Utah border in very good habitat.”

Will says the bears were in Aspen probably for the crab apples because food in the mountains is scarce this year.

Extra 30 days to prepare for deportation


DENVER — A Peruvian woman who spent several months at a Quaker meeting house in Denver to avoid deportation has been granted 30 days to prepare to leave the U.S.

The American Friends Service Committee says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted Ingrid Encalada Latorre an extension to a stay of deportation that was to expire Friday.

Latorre entered the U.S. in 2000 and has two U.S.-born children, ages 1 and 8. She was convicted in 2010 of possessing falsified or stolen identification papers.

A judge recently denied her appeal, and Gov. John Hickenlooper declined Thursday to pardon Latorre.

Latorre attracted widespread attention when she sought sanctuary in the Quaker meeting house last November.

She stayed there until May, when immigration officials said they wouldn’t seek her immediate arrest.

Wife’s cremains welded to stolen Harley


COLORADO SPRINGS — A Colorado family is asking for help in tracking down a stolen motorcycle that has the ashes of the owner’s late wife in a container welded to the fuel tank.

Sammy Gallagher said her father wanted to ride with her mother for the rest of his life, so he attached her ashes to the bike. The 1972 Harley Davidson was taken sometime between Saturday and Wednesday.

Gallagher says her father had the motorcycle at a friend’s house on the west side of the city where he was working on the transmission.

The Colorado license plate on the bike is 404-RKH.

Alleged victim of horrible attack flees U.S.


COLORADO SPRINGS — A former student at University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus who is accused of attacking his girlfriend with a shish-kebab skewer, killing their unborn child, has had all charges against him dropped after the alleged victim fled the country.

An El Paso County judge dismissed the case against Ahmed Sameer Almesbahi on Aug. 28. The alleged victim is a Kazakhstan native who was attending graduate school in Colorado.

The dismissal is restricted from public access, leaving the circumstances of the woman’s departure from the country a mystery.

Colorado Springs police say Almesbahi is the son of a wealthy Saudi family. His attorney, Lisa Wayne, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

District Attorney’s Office spokesman Lee Richards had no further details.


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