A couple in Montana just won the rights to dinosaur fossils found on their ranch.
The prehistoric skeletons include a pair of dinosaurs that appear locked in battle, a triceratops skull, and a Tyrannosaurus rex that sold for millions of dollars. In a 2014 auction, the dueling dinosaurs received a bid of $5.5 million, falling short of the $6 million reserve price.
In 2016, Mary Ann and Lige Murray sought a court order saying they owned the fossils. Brothers Jerry and Bo Severson, whose father owned the property before, still held most of the mineral rights to the land. U.S. District Judge Susan Watters of Billings, Mont., found the fossils belonged to the surface estate and granted the Murrays ownership.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018 overturned Watters’ ruling, giving the fossils to the Seversons. In 2019 the Montana legislature passed a bill clarifying that dinosaur fossils come under a property’s surface rights.
The full 9th Circuit on June 17 upheld the 2016 decision, leaving the Murrays with the fossils. —J.B