Written by The Herald-News
The 2013 summer paleontological season has been a busy and productive time for several institutions excavating fossils on Eastern Montana BLM-administered public lands.
More kinds of fossils can be found on BLM-managed lands than anywhere else in the U.S., that includes lands administered by other federal or state agency. In this part of Montana where the Hell Creek Formation is exposed, that statistic is particularly true.
This year in Garfield County, Museum of the Rockies staff excavated Triceratops remains that exhibited gouges attributed to T. rex teeth. According to initial reports, these specimens extracted from public land may contribute valuable information to the broader scientific record on both T. rex scavenging and feeding behavior as well as the growth and development stages of Triceratops.
Also in Garfield County; the St. Louis Community College-Meramec from Missouri continued to work a Triceratops excavation and a “bone-bed” that has an assortment of fossilized remains. The St. Louis Community College staff is updating information for a stratigraphic study of the Hell Creek Formation with a specialized digital panoramic camera. The images have been taken back to the college to be reassembled with specialized software to reconstruct the region’s ancient geological history.
Concordia College from Morehead, Minn., has been fossil-prospecting in Garfield County this summer as well.
Carter County played host to a crew from Carthage College from Kenosha, Wis., who were working on several sites that have been discovered over the years.
The Burpee Museum from Rockford, Ill., was also busy this summer in Carter County working a Hadrosaur site; a bone-bed that is giving up parts and pieces of several dinosaur species and turtles; and a suspected Oviraptorosaur. If an Oviraptorosaur is indeed confirmed, it may be the second most complete specimen yet recovered in North America.
Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History from New Haven, Conn., was back in Fallon County this summer working an early mammal fossil site east of Baker.
“We are excited to have so much interest in searching for and excavating fossils on the BLM lands we manage here in Eastern Montana,” said BLM Eastern Montana – Dakotas district manager Diane Friez. “There is a lot to be learned from the past, and this information will be utilized over time to educate our students and others throughout the world.”
BLM-permitted excavation teams working on public land must be federally-recognized repositories for paleontological specimens before they can be considered qualified to excavate on federal lands. The BLM issues permits primarily for vertebrate fossil specimens and scientifically significant invertebrates and plant fossils. The permits are issued to professional paleontologists who must agree to preserve their finds in a public museum, a college or a university because of their relative rarity and scientific importance. These remains must also be made available to other researchers.
BLM-issued permits for paleontology purposes do not, however, entitle the holder to trespass on private land. Landowners may call the BLM Miles City field office if they have a question regarding field crews who have been issued federal permits, or the regulations and laws regarding fossil collecting on federal lands.
Visitors to public lands are welcome to collect reasonable amounts of common invertebrate (animals with no backbone) and plant fossils without a BLM permit. No permit is needed for plant fossils, such as leaves, stems and cones, or common invertebrate fossils such as shellfish, ammonites and trilobites.
Petrified wood can be collected for personal use; up to 25 pounds each day plus one piece, but no more than 250 pounds in any calendar year. These materials must be for the finder’s personal collection and cannot be sold or traded.
For more paleontology and fossil collecting information call the BLM Miles City field office at 406-233-2800. For the latest BLM news and updates, visit www.blm.gov/mt, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BLMMontana, or follow on Twitter@BLM_MTDKs and @BLM_MTDK_Fire.