Dale Degner's 40th birthday on October 22 became even more memorable when he received word that one of his construction crews had uncovered the skeleton of a dinosaur paleontologists estimate lived about 68 million years ago. The crew had been digging and laying a storm sewer for a new housing development in Leduc, Alberta.
Degner is president of Degner Construction Group and a member of the Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert. “The guy in the ditch first noticed it,” said Degner. “He noticed what looked like a vertebrae embedded in the rock.”
Digging ceased immediately while paleontologists from Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum were contacted. “It’s expensive for us to stop work for two days,” said Degner, but that’s how long it took for the Tyrrell crew to arrive, confirm the discovery, and secure the site. For reasons of public safety and to prevent vandalism, the news was kept secret.
Even when they finally had the green light to carry on with construction, the Degner crew first helped museum staff by using its large excavator to remove the soil, rock and other material around the fossil. Only after the pieces of the fossil were plastered, crated, and safely transported back to the museum, was the great discovery made public on November 5, bringing the fossil and Degner Construction Group into the limelight.
Paleontologists believe the skeleton discovered by the Degner crew to be a Hypacrosaurus, a large duck-billed, leaf-eating dinosaur, also known as a hadrosaur. This is the second hadrosaur collected in Alberta in the space of a month. A discovery on October 1 at Spirit River, near Grande Prairie, Alberta, made international news.
“This tremendous find will give us even greater insight into the dinosaurs that lived in central Alberta,” said Heather Klimchuk, Minister of Alberta Culture. “Alberta’s ability to be successful in preserving and protecting valuable paleontological resources depends on the cooperation of industry and the public. Degner Construction is to be commended for recognizing and taking the right steps to alert the Royal Tyrrell Museum.”