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Digging for dinosaur bones

Caitlin Row
grand junction free press
Special to the Daily
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Digging for dinosaur bones isn’t just for scientists in these parts. The Museum of Western Colorado hosts people from across the globe to dig with experienced paleontologists on local sites in Rabbit Valley and Fruita.

“It’s one of the only places in the U.S. where the public can come and work with the museum to collect fossils, especially fossils of dinosaurs,” said ReBecca Hunt-Foster, paleontology collections manager with the Museum of Western Colorado. “In a normal week, we can host up to 50 people. We get people from all over the world. It’s a big deal. … It’s a chance to learn more about the fossil history of our area.”

Hunt-Foster said the museum has worked consistently at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in Rabbit Valley since 1982, and they also dig at a the Fruita Paleo Area south of town.



“It’s mostly classic Jurassic dinos ‹ Apatosaurus, Allosaurus and Diplodocus,” she said. “But, a brand-new dinosaur from the quarry was found right there. It’s called Mymoorapelta. It’s one of the small armored dinosaurs, a plant eater. It’s very unique. There’s only been two other specimens found, all in western Colorado.”

According to Hunt-Foster, the Grand Valley contains “a lot of the right-aged, exposed rock,” which is ideal for finding dinosaurs. Local rocks span the late Triassic to the mid-Cretaceous ages, the whole spectrum of dinosaur life. Besides dinosaurs, many marine fossils have been discovered as well ‹ fish, sharks, clams, etc.



“We’re really lucky,” she said.

While it’s OK for the Museum of Western Colorado’s staff to collect dinosaur bones, Hunt-Foster said it’s against the law for people to gather vertebrate fossils on federal land.

“Most of the land we work on is BLM land, and we hold scientific research permits,” she said, adding that the museum doesn’t privately own the bones collected.


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