Edmonton Man Finds Dinosaur Fossil in River Valley While Fishing

Monday, September 2, 2019

A hadrosaur fossil, more than a foot-long, was found by an Edmonton man along the North Saskatchewan River near Edmonton last month. (Myles Curry)

Discovery led to a fossil finding tour with Royal Tyrrell Museum staff.

Myles Curry went into the river valley to catch fish and he came out with a foot-long dinosaur bone.

Curry was hiking out of a secluded fishing spot along the North Saskatchewan River upstream from Devon, southwest of Edmonton, on Aug. 17. 

As he clambered over a pair of large rocks, he looked down and saw an unusual object with a curved shape fully uncovered on the ground. 

"I just had this voice in my head and I was like, you should go back and check that out," he said. 

Curry figured it was a petrified wood branch, a notably large piece to add to his collection. He picked up what looked like two smaller chunks of the branch, rinsed them off in the river and tucked them into his pack. 

"It was a good find, but it didn't seem like anything totally remarkable," he said. "It just wasn't even in my frame of reference of potentially being a dinosaur." 

Curry invited his neighbour, a fellow nature enthusiast, to take a look when he got back to Edmonton. But his neighbour quickly recognized the shape and texture as a likely dinosaur bone.

"I really wanted to believe them. It still just seemed like such an outrageous thing," he said.

Curry's neighbour recognized the signs of bone marrow on the edges of the fossil. (Myles Curry/CBC)

Curry sent out an email to several Alberta museums with a description and pictures, hoping to verify his neighbour's theory. 

Less than a day later, the curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller responded and confirmed it was a bone. It looked like a hadrosaur, he wrote, a duck-billed dinosaur that roamed throughout western North America millions of years ago. 

Curry has a reputation among friends and family for making unexpected nature finds, he said, but nothing as unexpected as a dinosaur fossil. 

"It's unreal. It goes to show that anything can really show up," he said. 

Private museum expedition

But the best part is, Curry says, the museum asked him to escort two staff back to the spot to look for more fossils. 

When he returned on Friday with the crew, mud from the eroding cliffs on the river's edge covered the ground. If he hadn't decided to pick up the fossil the first time around, Curry figures it would have been lost in the next rainstorm. 

Not to toot my own horn here but I found a couple fossils myself. - Myles Curry

Curry and the museum staff spent several hours searching the area.  

"They were so great. They were indulging all my questions," he said. "Not to toot my own horn here but I found a couple fossils myself." 

Curry was awestruck by how quickly the museum staff could identify what they found, right down to the species and the part of the body. He says the museum staff suspect a river may have once met the North Saskatchewan at the site, leading to a build up of fossils. As heavy rain eroded the river banks, fossils like the one Curry found were being unearthed for the first time. 

It was surreal to have a paleontologist explain the history behind the fossils he was holding in his hands, Curry said.

Myles Curry hopes people will support initiatives to establish provincial parks in different parts of Alberta after hearing his story. (Myles Curry)

"It really just shows how lucky we are here in Alberta. Lots of places you don't have the ability to tell these cool stories about the geology around us and there were these amazing creatures walking around literally where we were tens of millions of years ago," he said. 

Social media buzz 

The museum doesn't have any immediate plans to return to the spot, Curry said, but staff asked him to look out for any dinosaur fossils on future fishing trips. He still has the fossils, and is filing a claim with the province to become the legal owner. 

Curry posted his story on Twitter, where it's racked up thousands of likes. Through the post, he connected with an elementary school teacher about bringing the fossils for a show-and-tell style presentation to the fourth graders. 

"I think it'd be a great way to educate people on the amazingness of our river valley," he said of the fossils.

"We have a lot of adventure and a lot of history out there, so if I can keep them and share that story, I'd love to, but if [the museum] needs them for something else, I'm happy to give them up." 

Curry, who spends much of his free-time fishing and hiking, said the fossil saga redoubled his support to establish protected provincial parks in the Woodbend-Big Island area and Bighorn country. 

"We need to protect it and make it more accessible," he said. 

Source: www.cbc.ca/