An odd mystery has been discovered at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico — and it involves artistically painted rocks hidden like Easter eggs in canyon niches.
Photos shared on Facebook show the artist may have invested hours, if not days, making the rocks decorative.
But the National Park Service wants it stopped.
“Rangers found these painted rocks while hiking in Slaughter Canyon,” the park wrote on Facebook.
“Although leaving painted rocks behind for strangers to discover may seem like a fun activity, it is not appropriate in national parks,” the park wrote. “Please minimize your impacts on your public lands by not leaving trash or other items behind.”
It is not known how many painted rocks wait to be found in the canyon. Park officials also did not speculate on the intention of the person leaving the rocks, which are signed “Laurel”.
However, painting rocks in the park counts as vandalism, park officials said, and leaving painted rocks collected from elsewhere is littering.
Slaughter Canyon is home to an 11-mile hiking trail through the 46,766-acre national park, which has 120 “known” caves.
The Facebook post about the painted stones has gotten hundreds of reactions and comments, with many supporting the park’s “leave no trace” approach to visitation.
However, many commenters are defending the rocks.
“Painted rocks aren’t littering. No different than the National (Park) Service preserving Native American graffiti that they call ‘petroglyph’,” Gary Wilson wrote.
“To call small, and often times beautifully painted stones, ... trash is rather ironic when there are so many overflowing trash bins across the park system,” Michael Power said.
“NPS is going to find itself in a real pickle if a truly talented artist does something like this, Banksy-style,” Mike O’Brien said.
Banksy is an internationally famous British graffiti artist whose works sell for millions of dollars.
The rocks are the latest odd discovery made at the park, 300 miles southeast of Albuquerque.
In August, rangers said someone left a wooden stake at the entrance of a cave that is home to 500,000 bats. It was found at an amphitheater where tourists observe bats exit the cave at night.