When one thinks of Canadian dinosaurs, Drumheller, Alberta, immediately comes to mind. Prior to 2002 only two findings of dinosaur bones had been officially reported in British Columbia.
Paleontologist Rich McCrea has had the pleasure of changing all that.
McCrea, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alberta, was called upon in 2002 to investigate a sighting of dinosaur footprints in the Peace River district of northeastern B.C.
He found not only tracks, but a treasure trove of dinosaur bones — the oldest bones ever found in Western Canada.
McCrea called in Lisa Buckley, a paleontologist and specialist in dinosaur bone excavation who is working on her master’s degree, and together they coaxed more than 20 fragmented bones from the site. The following year they discovered and excavated 50 more.
McCrea and Buckley are investigating almost a dozen sites in the region that are yielding footprints or bones, or both.
The bones represent an assortment of dinosaur types — such as theropods, ankylosaurs, ornithopods — and marine animals such as crocodiles and turtles. They’ve even found fish scales.
The bones, which include limb bones, vertebrae, dermal armour, shoulder spines and a few teeth, date to approximately 93 to 95 million years ago, 20 million years older than the bones from the Drumheller area.
The footprints have proven to be an astonishing 75 to 140 million years old. And McCrea says there is much, much more out there. McCrea and Buckley returned to the main site, known as Quality Creek, in May.
The finds prompted the establishment in 2003 of the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., 160 kilometres northeast of Prince George, funded by the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, a volunteer organization. McCrea and Buckley are creating a Dinosaur Discovery Gallery at the centre, which is scheduled to open this spring.
If dinosaur exploring fascinates you, two sites are open to the public near Tumbler Ridge: Flatbed Creek Site and Wolverine River Site, where you can take nighttime guided lantern tours. For details on these finds visit PRPRC.com.