British Columbia

Rare dinosaur footprint may have been damaged by campfire

Local paleontologists are angry at a group of hikers that lit a campfire less than a meter away from the site of dinosaur tracks in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

Paleontologists say the heat could cause the rocks to crack and the site to erode faster

This rare tyrannosaurus footprint is nearly 60 cm in length. (Helm family)

Local paleontologists say they are angry with a group of hikers who they believe lit a campfire less than a metre away from a historic site — dinosaur tracks in Tumbler Ridge, B.C. that are 94 million-years-old.

"It wasn't right on the footprint but heat from it could definitely affect the rocks and cause them to crack from the temperature differential," said Rich McCrea, a paleontologist with the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre.

McCrea says it doesn't matter if the campfire was right on the footprint or a few meters away because the heat, he says, could still destabilize the track site and cause it to erode faster. 

The rare dinosaur footprint discovered last year is nearly 60cm in length and is one of 14 tyrannosaurus specimens worldwide. 

Photo from when dinosaur track was originally discovered. (Rich McCrea)

Ongoing problem

The tracks are a popular sightseeing spot for hikers, and McCrea said there are signs everywhere marking the exact location.

"Unfortunately, it happens every year or so. Sometimes it is someone carving their name in the rock or chiseling out a piece of the dinosaur track." 

Field assistant Linda Amos examines the campfire remains. (Rich McCrea)

He said he wants the province to implement legislation to protect B.C.'s fossils.

"The missing piece is deterrent legislation that would make it a crime to do something like this," he said. 

B.C. is one of the only provinces that does not have specific legislation to protect its paleontological resources, but it is working to draw one up. 

"We are hoping as soon as possible. We think it is quite long overdue," said McCrea. 

With files from the CBC's Daybreak North and Jordan Tucker. 

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Rare dinosaur footprint may be damaged after campfire.