Published June 05 2012
Bone burglary strikes former owner of dinosaur store
The jawbones of a prehistoric marine reptile were among dozens of fossils and other items stolen from a garage behind Gary R. Olson’s former Dinosaurs and More store.
“The fossils are irreplaceable because you find it, that’s it,” Olson said Tuesday. “You can’t really replace it.”
Olson reported to West Fargo police on Monday that someone had broken into the garage in the 700 block of Main Avenue East sometime since May 15.
Assistant Chief Mike Reitan said police have no suspects at this time.
In addition to the mosasaur jawbones and other fossils, Olson also is missing at least 30 scaled-down models of dinosaurs, skulls and skeletons, some up to 2 feet long, he said.
Olson possessed pictures of the stolen items and gave them to police. On Tuesday, he checked local pawn shops for the loot.
He didn’t want to divulge too much detail about the items stolen, for fear the thief or thieves may then hesitate to sell them.
“Because if they turn up, it’ll be obvious where they came from,” he said.
Olson doesn’t know why someone would want the mosasaur jawbones, though they contain large teeth that some might think are valuable, he said.
The models are rare in these parts, he said, noting the next nearest distributor is in Hill City, S.D.
“I’m the only person in probably 200 miles or more that even had sold those,” he said.
Dinosaurs and More opened in 2006, offering a one-stop museum, gift shop and laboratory where customers could watch Olson and his coworkers clean and restore 65-million-year-old fossils.
The store became a popular destination for school groups, and in 2007 it was voted one of the top three area attractions and unique gift stores in The Forum’s “Best of the Red River Valley” online poll.
Several factors led to its closing in 2009, including the recession, a harsh winter and historic spring flood and a Main Avenue reconstruction project that hindered access to the store, Olson said.
Olson, a Litchville, N.D., native and former teacher who holds degrees in biology and earth and environmental science, said he still digs for fossils in the summertime. He sold his display cases and most of his castings to a museum after the store closed, he said.
“Good thing I didn’t have all of those in here, too,” he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528