Fossil ‘explorer’ who discovered rich quarry dies

Pete Mygatt

One of four discoverers of what is now the Mygatt-Moore dinosaur quarry in Rabbit Valley died in February.

Pete Mygatt died Feb. 23 in Boise, Idaho. He was 90.

Mygatt, his wife, Marilyn, and their friends, John D. and Vanetta Moore, spotted dinosaur bones in the high desert near the Colorado-Utah line on March 4, 1981.

The find was the culmination of many hours of searching through the high desert in search of such an outcrop, said a son, Matt Mygatt.

“I was very excited for him because we had searched for dinosaur fossils for years,” Matt Mygatt said of learning of the find in a phone call. “As I recollect it, he said, ‘Bingo!’” on spotting the bones of late Jurassic-era animals.

Among those bones were those of what is now known as Mymoorapelta, or “Shield of Mygatt-Moore,” an armored dinosaur, or ankylosaur, of the period.

The quarry “keeps yielding new insights into the ancient world,” said Julia McHugh, curator of paleontology for Dinosaur Journey.

“Mygatt-Moore has basically changed the face of the paleontology program at the Museums of Western Colorado in a profound way,” she said.

While Pete Mygatt worked on the bones from the quarry, he preferred the kind of searching that led to the find, Matt Mygatt said.

“He was more the explorer, he wanted to tromp around desert, looking for more.”

In addition to his paleontological passion — Mygatt was a member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology — Mygatt was a newspaperman, expert horseman and owner of Mustangs, of the Ford variety.

He was originally rejected from the U.S. Air Force because of a childhood bout with polio, so he joined the U.S. Forest Service, where he demonstrated the ability to carry 90 pounds of firefighting equipment on his back, “and he got into the Air Force after that,” Matt Mygatt said.

He is survived by his wife, Marilyn Kniseley Mygatt; two sons, Matt of Carlsbad, California., and Tony of El Dorado Hills, California; Marilyn’s children, Amy Ashman of Grand Junction and Wendy Jordan and Scott Ackleson, both of Boise.

Instead of a funeral, Matt Mygatt said, his father asked that friends and family go out and have a beer or another beverage and celebrate.


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