Sask. dinosaur industry lags, experts say

Saskatchewan has one of the richest dinosaur fossil deposits of all the Canadian provinces, but it's an underdeveloped resource, experts say.

Saskatchewan has one of the richest dinosaur fossil deposits of all the Canadian provinces, but it's an underdeveloped resource, experts say.

The fossils, many of them found in the Frenchman River Valley, are reminders of an ancient time, tens of millions of years ago, when triceratops, ankylosaurus and tyrannosaurus rex roamed the Earth.

Hans Larsson, who's a paleontologist with McGill University in Montreal, says while Saskatchewan doesn't have as rich a fossil record as Alberta, it is still comparable.

"It's a bit of a mystery why more work hasn't been done there. Perhaps Alberta has sort of taken the show for many of years and this is why the majority of research has been focussed on Alberta. But Saskatchewan, I think, is equally important."

In Saskatchewan, some fossil-bearing layers of rock are close to the surface, leaving some dinosaur fossils exposed to the elements.

Wes Long, a paleontological technician who works for the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Eastend, says he's worried good fossils are being destroyed by erosion.

"It's just really, really frustrating," he said.

The problem, he says, is essentially a severe labour shortage in the province's fossil industry.

There are only two professionals in the province who work in vertebrate paleontology, which is the study of dinosaurs and other animal fossils.

That compares to roughly 30 paid researchers in the field in Alberta.

"I don't think it's really acceptable," Long said.

"I think these things should be collected. Saskatchewan has such an excellent fossil record and there's a lot of great skeletons and a lot of great research that can be done in the province. And we just don't have the people to do it."

The low profile of Saskatchewan's fossil resource is also frustrating to Sean Bell who runs the dinosaur museum in Eastend, close to where the T. rex skeleton dubbed "Scotty" was discovered in the mid-1990s.

"We haven't trumpeted our horn about what we've got here," Bell said.

Dustin Duncan, the minister responsible for tourism, says he can understand the desire for more money for this area, but right now Saskatchewan's budget is too tight.