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A Longview, Washington, man accused of digging up the skull of a hog-like animal that predated humans by 20 million years has been banned from US national park lands for a year.

The Oregonian reports that David Wixon, 48, also must pay US$4,500 in restitution for the misdemeanour crime of depredation of government property.

The fossil was from an oreodont, one of a number of stout, hooved, plant-eating animals now extinct.

Court records say an off-duty interpretive ranger saw Wixon using a rock hammer at a site at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in May 2007, leading to an investigation by federal agents. Authorities say they searched his house, and he returned the skull. (source)