British Columbia

B.C. duck-billed dinosaur find airlifted to new home

It took several years to coordinate, but B.C.'s most complete dinosaur skeleton has a new home. The bones were recently air-lifted from a dig site near the Alberta border to a museum in northeastern B.C.

Dinosaur skeleton is B.C.'s most complete find despite missing head

It took several years to coordinate, but B.C.'s most complete dinosaur skeleton has a new home in Tumbler Ridge.

The plaster-wrapped fossilized bones of a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, were recently airlifted from a dig site near the B.C.-Alberta border to the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre.

A Vancouver Island Helicopters pilot lifts 1,996 kilograms of plaster-wrapped dinosaur bones out of and excavation site near the B.C.-Alberta border. The hadrosaur skeleton, minus its missing its head, will be on display in Tumbler Ridge. (Photo courtesy Richard T. McCrea)

Lisa Buckley, curator and collections manager with the centre, said she and her team discovered the fossilized skeleton in 2009 — the first hadrosaur find in B.C.

"Dinosaur finds in terms of skeletons in British Columbia are not that common. They're bordering on rare, to be honest."

Hadrosaurs, a family of distinctive-looking plant-eating dinosaurs, lived more than 65 million years ago.

"And they're the ones that had the really funky head gear, like the big long tubes extending back over the head, or the big frill running down the centre of the head," Buckley said. 

But sadly, this duck-billed skeleton is missing that impressive feature.

"It does not have its head, no. And it's following a disturbingly frustrating trend with other duck-billed dinosaur skeletons. It's very common for their heads to be missing."

More finds at site possible

Richard McCrea, a paleontologist with the Tumbler Ridge Museum, said it's possible the hadrosaur's head was scavenged by a tyrannosaurus. About 60 tyrannosaurus teeth have been found at the site, where the excavation of the hadrosaur has been ongoing since 2008.

McCrea said the hadrosaur skeleton is proof that B.C.'s paleontological history needs to be taken more seriously, and that the excavation took so long partly because his six-member team operates on such a small budget.

McCrea also said his team is hoping to unearth dozens more hadrosaur skeletons, as the animals lived in herds and did not tend to die alone or in small groups.

The airlifted hadrosaur skeleton will eventually be on display at the museum in Tumbler Ridge, but not for at least a year.

McCrea says the museum doesn't currently have the funding to hire the proper technicians to prepare the bones.

With files from the CBC's Marissa Harvey The Canadian Press