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Bob the triceratops will leave N.D.

VALLEY CITY, N.D.--Bob the triceratops is about to leave North Dakota for the first time in 65 million years. And despite efforts to keep him in the state, he probably won't be coming back.

VALLEY CITY, N.D.-Bob the triceratops is about to leave North Dakota for the first time in 65 million years. And despite efforts to keep him in the state, he probably won't be coming back.

"It's really too bad because I'd love to see it stay," said Alan Komrosky, the dinosaur's owner.

Bob has been on display at the Barnes County Historical Society in Valley City since June 2014. But on Dec. 20, a crew will start dismantling the 26-foot-long fossil, Komrosky said.

Once Bob's bones, including his massive triple-horned skull and frill, are all carefully cradled in foam and loaded into the back of a truck, the dinosaur will head to Arizona for the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, Komrosky said.

One of the world's largest and most complete triceratops fossils, Bob will be featured at the show that starts Jan. 30 in the hopes of attracting potential buyers. After Tucson, Bob will travel to Bonhams auction house in Los Angeles where he'll be sold to the highest bidder. Though, it may be a year before Bob is actually auctioned off, given the time it will take to promote the fossil internationally.

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Komrosky, owner of Hell Creek Relics in Valley City, said he's done his due diligence to try to find a place for Bob in North Dakota, but no one's been able to pay his asking price of $1.4 million. He says most of that sum would go toward recouping his expenses, as well as paying off some investors and the owners of the land where Bob was found.

"There won't be a whole lot of profit at that price," he said, noting that over 11 years, it took 21,000 work-hours to unearth Bob, prep his bones and mount them on a steel frame.

Judging by recent sales of dinosaur fossils, Komrosky expects Bob will end up in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. "They have the resources," he said. "They see it as an investment in the future."

'A world-class exhibit'

In 2003, Bob the triceratops was discovered in the southwestern corner of the state in Bowman County on Craig and Bobbi Egeland's ranch near the South Dakota border. Bobbi Egeland, Bob's namesake, spotted part of the triceratops' shoulder and chipped away at the ground to see what lay beneath.

The remains come from the Hell Creek Formation, which spans parts of the eastern Montana Badlands, northwestern South Dakota and southwestern North Dakota. Fossils in that area are 65 million to 70 million years old, which puts them in the late Cretaceous period.

Wes Anderson, curator of the Barnes County Historical Society, said Bob has been a boon to the museum's visitation and he wishes the dinosaur could stay. "It's a world-class exhibit," he said. "It's right up there with Sue the T. rex in Chicago."

Anderson said there was discussion about raising money to keep Bob in Valley City, but donors never materialized. Short of an angel investor appearing, he said, the museum can't afford Bob. The museum's budget is $70,000 a year, which pays for lights, heat and Anderson's salary.

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"It's a tremendous gift to have Bob here, and we'd like to share it with as many people as possible before he leaves," Anderson said. "Once he's gone, he's not coming back, and it's a long bus ride to Dubai."

No takers

A logical home for Bob would be the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum in Bismarck, but it has no plans to buy the dinosaur. That's because when the center learned of Bob, it was already committed to the $3 million purchase of Dakota, a mummified Hadrosaur found in the Marmarth area, said Claudia Berg, director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, who oversees the center.

Berg said the center, which has a cast of a triceratops fossil on display, doesn't have the money to buy Bob. "It's a challenge for fundraising just with oil prices and agricultural prices falling a little, so everybody's being pretty careful right now," she said.

Komrosky said the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks showed an interest in Bob and a purchase plan was even devised. But the timing of the deal didn't work for the museum, which was raising money for another project, he said. Attempts to reach the museum's director and deputy director by phone and email were unsuccessful this week.

Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said he was approached three weeks ago about the possibility of an individual buyer leasing Bob to the city, which owns the local Dakota Dinosaur Museum.

Kessel said the city rejected the offer for a few reasons: The city couldn't afford the lease; the museum already has a triceratops fossil; and the city, which recently agreed to take over the museum, promised the previous owner that it wouldn't change the exhibits for a year. "It just didn't seem to be the right decision at the right time," he said.

'Two bucks a person'

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One of the people Komrosky called while trying to find a home for Bob was Sara Otte Coleman, director of North Dakota's Tourism Division. Coleman said she phoned communities around the state, but found no place that could buy Bob. She said any state money for Bob would have to come through the Legislature and a request for such funds was not made.

For Jesse Rock, a geology lecturer at North Dakota State University, it was heartbreaking to hear that a rare specimen like Bob will be leaving the state.

"He's a really special guy," she said of the fossil with nearly 90 percent of its large bones. "I can't tell you how sad I am Bob is leaving."

Rock said she and a friend considered creating a GoFundMe website to crowdsource the cost of the dinosaur. "The price of Bob is about twice the population of North Dakota," she said. "Two bucks a person-we could raise enough money to keep him."

But even if they collected enough cash, Rock said, there's the question of where to house Bob in Fargo.

"We really could use a natural history museum in this community," she said. "This is the time to do it. This is the place to do it."

If you go

What: See Bob the triceratops through Saturday, Dec. 19

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Where: Barnes County Historical Society, 315 Central Ave. N., Valley City, N.D.

Info: There is no admission charge, though donations are accepted.

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