U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2011
Contacts: Beverly Skinner, USFWS (406) 539-8706
Dan Harrell, USFWS (406) 464-5181
REMAINS OF PREHISTORIC AQUATIC REPTILE UNEARTHED AT MONTANA WILDLIFE REFUGE
Denver, CO - July 15, 2011. During the 2010 fall archery season, a man bow hunting for elk on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana made a remarkable discovery: the fossilized bones of a prehistoric sea creature. In the months that followed, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff at CMR consulted with experts who identified the animal as a plesiosaur—a marine reptile that thrived in North America’s Western Interior Seaway some 74 million years ago.
Pat Druckenmiller, marine reptile expert and Earth Science Curator at the University of Alaska Museum, was brought in to excavate the find. Druckenmiller, along with CMR Range Technician, Dan Harrell, led a team of Service employees at the dig site. The team, assisted by David Bradt (the hunter who discovered the fossil) and his family, worked long days in cramped conditions and 90 degree heat to remove the specimen. The dig concluded last week.
Measurements made during the excavation revealed that the plesiosaur is significantly smaller than others from the same time period, suggesting that it may be a juvenile or a species entirely new to science.
The specimen will remain in the permanent custody of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and will either be utilized for further scientific study or made available for public display.
Photos of the plesiosaur and the excavation can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/sets/72157627064260459/
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