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Search Warrants Served For Stolen Paleontological Items

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

National Park News

On October 30th, search warrants were served at the residence and storage facilities of David and Tina Wixon in Kelso, Washington, by a National Park Service Investigative Services Branch special agent, an NPS paleontologist, rangers and agents from the Bureau of Land Management, and officers from the Kelso Police Department, the Washington Department of Corrections, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This action stemmed from an investigation that’s been underway since last May 6th, when the Wixons were contacted by an off-duty NPS employee as they illegally excavated fossils in the park. David Wixon, while continuing to remove and photograph the fossils, expounded in detail to the employee (who did not identify himself as such) about fossils and geology. The employee was able to get a license plate number and provided descriptions of the suspects to the BLM ranger stationed in the park – a shared position between the Prineville District and the NPS. The BLM ranger continues to lead the investigation as case agent. Park paleontologists, from the evidence remaining at the site, determined that a fossilized skull of an oreodont was removed, possibly along with other fossil species. The oreodont was a medium-sized mammal that lived between 20 and 35 million years ago and is distantly related to modern pigs. David Wixon is a convicted felon (multiple times and in several states) with an extensive history of assault, unlawful firearms possession, controlled substance crimes, larceny, and forgery. His wife does not have a criminal record. The search resulted in finding fossil remains from a rhinoceros, other unidentified mammals, leaves and plants, and a trilobite. The rhinoceros and the unidentified mammal remains were tentatively identified as being from the park and may be as much as 40 million years old.  More testing will occur at the park. Also seized were computers, cameras, notes and associated computer discs and CDs. The Washington Fish and Wildlife officers issued a violation notice for illegal crab harvesting.


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