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The Bureau of Land Management is offering a reward of up to $500 to help catch the vandals who spray-painted shooting targets onto rocks near ancient Native American art in Utah County.

The BLM's Salt Lake Field Office received a report July 31 that someone had spray-painted at least a dozen targets onto rocks in the Lake Mountains area, west of Utah Lake. Evidence found at the scene indicated the targets were shot with large-caliber weapons, the BLM said in a news release.

"To me, it's almost like walking into a museum and destroying artifacts and displays there," said Mike Searcy, an archaeologist at Brigham Young University who works on excavations of Native American artifacts around Utah Lake.

The Lake Mountains area is home to rock art created by the Fremont Indians, who lived in the Utah area between A.D. 400 and 1300, according Searcy. The art around Utah Lake, which Searcy characterized as "invaluable," is estimated to be at least a thousand years old.

"These pieces of rock art are some of the only artistic representations we have of the Fremont Indians prehistorically in this area," Searcy said.

The area is also a hot spot for target practice. But rather than deface irreplaceable relics, the BLM says sharpshooters should use paper targets backstopped by soft earth.

The BLM believes the vandalism occurred between July 25 and July 31. Though the targets were not spray-painted directly onto the Native American art, the vandals can still face penalties that include fines and jail time.

The Lake Mountains area has been vandalized for target practice before. In 2011, the BLM went to great effort and expense to remove similar spray-painted targets in the area.

In July, the family of two young juveniles agreed to pay the BLM $1,500 to cover the costs of removing vandalism from a Native American art rock panel in the Nine Mile Canyon area.

The BLM has urged anyone with information about the Lake Mountains vandalism to call ranger Randy Griffin at 801-977-4314.

Twitter: @Harry_Stevens

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