Morton County fossil dig uncovers T-Rex tooth and career inspiration

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 8:06 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Millions of years ago, dinosaurs walked the land that would later become North Dakota. The North Dakota Geological Survey works to piece together this history through fossils. Every summer, these fossil digs are open to the public.

Each scrape and brush gets this digging team closer to discovering more of North Dakota’s history.

“At this site, we’re hoping to find an edmontosaurus, which is a common animal, that’s the duck-billed dinosaur,  we also find occasional triceratops, which is that three-horned dinosaur, we do find the occasional T-Rex tooth, we found one yesterday,” said Jeff Person, a paleontologist with the North Dakota Geological Survey.

In addition to finding a T-Rex tooth on Monday, the group has uncovered several fossilized bones just over the past two days.

Paleontologists on site say the slower you dig, the more fossils you’ll find.

This dig is set in the Hell Creek formation in rural Morton County, which is around 66 million years old, and people travel from coast to coast to see it.

Gene Ransom and his son, Theo, are visiting from Maryland. Others traveled from as far as California.

“I’ve learned more about dinosaurs than I ever thought I would, because it has nothing to do with my career or anything, it’s been very interesting and fun,” said Gene Ransom of Maryland.

And for some, this trip is helping them uncover more than just fossils. It’s also inspiring future careers.

“So, since I was three years old, I’ve always liked dinosaurs, which expanded to fossils in general. Now, I’m trying to be paleontologist, or at least go to college to become one, and now I’m here,” said Theo Ransom, a high school senior from Maryland.

Person says they bring in about 300 people over the course of the summer to help them dig, and all fossils go to the North Dakota state fossil collection.

If you’re interested in signing up for a dig, you need to plan ahead. This summer is already fully booked. Person says sign-ups start in January each year, and typically fill up in about 10 minutes.

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