Alberta floods unearth bones, bombs

The disrupted terrain caused by last month's historic flooding in southern Alberta is leading to new discoveries, including bones and bombs.

Flood waters washed away vegetation, leading paleontologists to expect new discoveries

Heavy flooding in Alberta last month has changed the landscape and may have uncovered some hidden treasures. 2:44

The disrupted terrain caused by last month’s historic flooding in southern Alberta is leading to new discoveries, including bones and bombs.

Cody Van Megen sent photos of the bones he found along the Bow River to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller for analysis. (CBC)

Cody Van Megen found bones when walking his dog near the Bow River in Calgary a few weeks ago and knew he should alert paleontologists.

"I just glanced down and saw the bones and they were immediately identifiable as rib bones," he said.

He quickly eliminated a deer or elk as possibilities.

"To me, I thought they were just too large, too big, too long."

Van Megen sent photos of his find to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, east of Calgary.

The bones could be from an ice-age mammal such as a bison, but they will need to be closely examined, said Francois Therrien, a paleontologist with the museum.

Van Megen’s find is one of several since the flooding that experts plan to investigate.

The flooding washed away dense vegetation in fossil-rich areas that have never been excavated before, Therrien said. 

Potential for new species discovery

"We have potential of learning about ancient Alberta with new species that were previously unknown," he said.

Paleontologist Francois Therrien says the flooding last month in Alberta washed away vegetation in fossil-rich areas, meaning more new discoveries are likely. (CBC)

"Everybody knows of triceratops, T-Rex, the duck-billed dinosaur, but there's lots of animals we've never found before and those fresh exposures have the potential to reveal to us new information about the lost world."

The secrets revealed by the floods are not limited to bones. The sheer force of the water changed the landscape and unearthed other little pieces of history. 

Easter Seals Camp Horizon, a special needs camp that caters to disabled adults and children, had to be evacuated after the flood washed up a 1,400-kilogram propane tank that was emitting a gas smell.

Twice since the floodwaters receded, the bomb squad has been called out to the Weaselhead Natural Area on the southwest edge of Calgary, historically the site of military training exercises.

Bomb technicians had to deactivate two anti-tank projectile munitions discovered in the park.

"Age does affect any kind of explosive and in particular we don't know what's been done to it, so it's dangerous just as it's sitting there," said bomb technician Staff Sgt. Shawn Wallace.

The flooding also revealed a long-hidden construction debris field under a major roadway in Calgary, part of which was washed away in the disaster.

Crews discovered old car batteries, concrete, rebar and other materials beneath the road's surface, said city spokeswoman Jennifer Thompson-Goldberg.

As the debris is removed, it is being tested to determine if any of it is hazardous, she said.