If you’ve got a kid who likes to dig, don’t discourage them! You never know what he or she might dig up and the finds could be worth a fortune.
It turns out that North America is one of the best places in the world to find dinosaur bones, with dozens of discoveries each year in states ranging across the Rocky Mountains all the way to Michigan and Maryland. And it’s not only paleontologists and archaeologists finding these treasures. In addition to the professional diggers, adults and even some children have come across some really incredible finds.
For example, just last year, a retired nuclear physicist named Dr. Bill Shipp came across the femur of a brand-new species of Triceratops, later named Spicylpeus (spiked head) shipporum (after Dr. Shipp), while walking on his property in Montana. This particular Spicylpeus shipporum was dubbed Judith. She was 76 million years old and dates back to the late Jurassic period.
And, in 2015, a farmer from Ann Arbour, MI, found the remains of a 15,000-year-old woolly mammoth while reaping the harvest in his fields. A woolly mammoth is not quite a dinosaur, but the find was still incredibly exciting. But it’s not just adults making these amazing discoveries!
The same year, a 4-year-old named Wiley Brys of Texas was out hunting for fossils with his dad, who happens to be a zookeeper, when he came across a 100-million-year-old dinosaur bone. The bone was deemed to have come from a dinosaur in the Nodosaurs family, herbivore dinosaurs dating to the late Jurassic period.
In 2014, Donald and Shawn Gibson were digging up in their parents’ Maryland backyard in order to add a sun room. Seven-year-old Caleb Gibson was helping by playing in the dirt piles his dad and uncle had dug up. One by one, each of the diggers discovered several bones, the last being a spinal cord and tooth. They called in the authorities, who identified the remains as a 15-million-year old snaggletooth shark!
Also in Michigan, Gabrielle Block, a 4th grader, became the first person to find a dinosaur fossil at Dino Park, a fossil digging site in Maryland. The bone, the tail of a 100-million-year-old, meat-eating dinosaur, now resides at the Smithsonian Museum.
Coincidentally, if you live in or plan to be in Maryland anytime soon, Dino Park is open to the public every first and third Saturday. The 41-acre park is one of the most productive sites in America for dinosaur and plant fossils, but they keep whatever you find.
If you think you’ve found a bone in the backyard, it’s yours to keep, but you might want to stop digging and contact your local museum for help. Dino bones won’t last long in open air and you wouldn’t want to damage them. Once excavated, the choice is yours – you can clean it up and keep it, give it to a museum, or put it up for auction.