Public has fun in the dirt at public fossil dig in Dickinson

The new Jurassic World movie might be opening today, but some people outside of Dickinson, ND wanted to experience the real life thing for themselves

“Our previous record was 299 spots. This year it is 602, so between this year and last year we have doubled in size,” said Clint Boyd, Senior Paleontologist.

The North Dakota Geological Survey is hosting four public fossil digs this Summer, and Boyd said it might be the hottest ticket around.

“We were 95 percent full by the end of the day on February 1st”.

One of them is in Dickinson  where the star attraction is an animal who has been extinct for more than 30 million years, a subhyracodon.

“The animal was about the size of a modern cow, but unlike rhinos today it didn’t have any horns,” said Boyd.

The public fossil digs started in 2001 but have been continuous since 2008.

At $10 it is a great bargain and experience for anyone who comes out and particpates.

“It’s pretty exciting I just didn’t want to run into any snakes,” said Jora Leeseberg who participated in the event with her family from Hillsboro, ND.

The North Dakota Dakota Geological Survey said its great for them too, because the volunteers help them find fossils to put on display in North Dakota.

“We only have three people on staff . . . The best way we found over the years to maximize the little amount of field time we get is to bring out members of the public, ” said Boyd.

He also said the agency’s mission statement is to collect and keep as many fossils as possible in North Dakota, so they can be put on display in North Dakota.

The fossils collected are taken to the ND State Fossil Collection at the Heritage Center in Bismarck.

Boyd said they couldn’t do what they do without the volunteers, and if a fossil or two gets broken in the process he can live with it.

“The increase in labor by far makes up for any damage that may happen to a fossil here or there”.

When the volunteers come out and dig for the day, they get a hammer, brush, and pick, and some of them had great finds on Friday.

“They have found some teeth. . .  they found a rib near by. . .  and we found a real nice,big rhino tooth,”said Trissa Ford, fossil preparator.

On this particular day the people who participated said they enjoyed it as much as a Jurassic Park movie.

“Its pretty great, because I found something first” said Leeseberg.

Boyd said they will have public fossil digs through mid August, and the other sites are in Mandan, Medora, and Walhalla.

The digs are currently all filled, but anyone interested in being put on a waitlist should contact Mindy Austin at (701)-328-8000.

https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/digs/

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