Drumheller dinosaur statues need saving after slight 'mass extinction,' group says

Some people in the self-proclaimed dinosaur capital of the world are trying to save the colourful statues crumbling around their southern Alberta town.

Maple leaf-dotted T. Rex to be retired after being smashed by van

This dinosaur, decorated to mark Canada's centennial, was a casualty in a crash involving a van. The dino cannot be repaired and will likely be retired. (Drumheller DinoArts Association)

Some people in the self-proclaimed dinosaur capital of the world are trying to save the colourful statues crumbling around their southern Alberta town.

Drumheller, roughly 130 kilometres northeast of Calgary in the badlands of Alberta, is home to fossils of prehistoric creatures and the renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Its downtown is dotted with more than 30 dinosaur statues, from triceratops and brontosaurus, to tyrannosauruses of various sizes. There's even one riding a motorcycle.

Three have been damaged — one so badly, it can't be fixed — and others are at risk of crumbling, according to their caretakers at the Drumheller DinoArts Association.

​"We had a little bit of a mass extinction last week," vice-chairperson Courtney Bell told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

T. Rex 'retired'

One of the damaged dinos was known as Mail Man T. Rex, painted red with white maple leafs to honour Canada's Centennial and located by Canada Post. In a collision, a van swerved and hit the dinosaur up on the sidewalk, Bell said.

The group says Mail Man T. Rex is too damaged to be fixed.

"He will be retired," Bell said.

Two other casualties should be repairable, she said, like Batman Dino, who's been removed from his home in front of the Shoppers Drug Mart. His arm and tail fell off. The mini T. Rex should be fixed soon.

Batman Dino, who normally stands in front of the Shoppers Drug Mart, has been damaged and removed for repair. His tail and arm fell off. (Drumheller DinoArts Association)

A third fell on its face after its legs gave out near Co-op Agro, which says it's looking into fixing the dino.

"Most of these structures were build in the '60s," Bell said. "They're made with quite heavy material, concrete and wire, and they're just kind of seeing the end of their time."

Many of the dinosaurs, affectionately known as "cementasauruses," were created by artist Tig Seland to be housed in Prehistoric Park. The tourist attraction closed in the 1980s. After that, the dinosaurs migrated into the town and into the chamber of commerce's ownership.

All the dinosaurs have liability insurance coverage but in the case of Mail Man T. Rex, it's not expected to be enough to fix the existing structure. Instead, any funds will likely be directed to build a new dinosaur.

This dinosaur's legs gave out, toppling the statue. (Drumheller DinoArts Association)

DinoArts fundraises to maintain the statues and attempt to afford to build new ones. The next event is in October and involves pieing local celebrities in the face. The local chamber of commerce will match donations to help the dinosaur statues, Bell said.

"They are just starting to show wear and tear, so holes will show up or horns will fall off," she said. "If we are able to fix them, then we absolutely fix them."

Hear more about the efforts to save Drumheller dinosaurs from extinction:

Courtney Bell with Drumheller DinoArts tells us why some of the "cementausauruses" in downtown Drumheller are crumbling. 5:06

Its website advertises a Dino Walk around the town, and maintaining the tradition is a priority, Bell said, as people take pride in their quirky, statuesque neighbours.

Drumheller's largest dinosaur sculpture of a T. Rex is made of lighter materials, like fibreglass and steel. Standing 46 metres, it would tower over a real T. Rex, which stood 4.6 metres high. ​

With files from Danielle Nerman and the Calgary Eyeopener.