By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A red rock pinnacle popular with climbers and named for its snakelike shape has been beheaded in the Utah desert, federal land managers said on Tuesday.

The Cobra was one of dozens of rock formations in the Fisher Towers region of the Colorado River Special Recreation area near Moab, about 400 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

Sometimes called hoodoos, the red-orange sandstone rocks have been sculpted over the past million years by wind and water erosion into spires, towers and pedestals.

A popular attraction for rock climbers, the Cobra was a thin spire standing that some 50-feet high and affixed with a wide, flat cap rock.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is investigating what happened, and early reports suggest heavy thunderstorms that moved through the region over the past week could be to blame, agency spokeswoman Megan Crandall said.

There have been no reports of injuries or damage, nor have any witnesses said they saw the tower fall, she added.

Rumors the Cobra had "lost its head" began circulating in Moab a few days after a July 28 storm, local climber Lisa Hathaway told Reuters in an email.

Some dismissed the claim, she said, because similar tales have often surfaced on April Fool's Day. But another climber decided to investigate and found the Cobra's tenuously mounted cap stone severed from the rest of the structure.

"Alas, it was no prank, the Cobra was beheaded," she said. 

The Cobra was far smaller than most of the spires in the area, but it was popular with climbers for its accessibility and squat features. 

"It was a fun, must-do, mini-summit," said Hathaway, who suspects a lightning strike may have dealt the fatal blow.


(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)