Idaho has many state symbols. This information is widely known since state symbols are a required fourth grade lesson in elementary schools of Idaho. However, there seems to be a new state emblem thanks to the efforts of fourth graders from Bonneville Joint School District 93’s Ucon Elementary School. On March 31, 2023, Governor Brad Little signed the bill for the Oryctodromeus, a small prairie dog-like dinosaur that was native to Idaho, to be the state dinosaur. As of now, Idaho is the 17th state to have an official state dinosaur.
The process of gaining this new state symbol began last year in the fourth grade class of Joel Walton, a teacher at Ucon Elementary. The proposal for the Oryctodromeus to become the state dinosaur was introduced to the senate on February 27th of this year. A key player in the entire process of rallying for the bill’s approval was a professor from Idaho State University, L. J. Krumenacker, who discovered the fossils of the Oryctodromeus in 2006, and worked with the elementary schoolers to bring this dream to fruition. On April 14th, Governor Brad Little visited Ucon Elementary to congratulate the students and sign the copy of the bill, known as Senate Bill 1127. This was the governor’s fourth visit to D93 since he was elected. Alongside the governor at the ceremony was Representative Wendy Horman and Senator Kevin Cook, who were the individuals who assisted the students through the enactment process.
The Oryctodromeus’ name itself translates to “digging runner.” Living nearly 100 million years ago, this dinosaur was about the size of a golden retriever paired with a seven-foot tail. The Oryctodromeus was known to be very family oriented, as their burrows contained remains of younger oryctodromeus and adults. From what can be gathered, the dinosaur is only native to Idaho and southwest Montana, which fits well for a state emblem. Krumenacker has stated over a phone interview with a non-profit political news organization that he has 10 to 12 completed skeletons of the Oryctodromeus, found in the Caribou Mountains.
In conclusion, this experience has left quite the impression on the fourth graders who helped to make the Oryctodromeus the state dinosaur, as well as possibly making a big leap in Idaho’s future history.