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recent discovery of predator/prey pair in Hell Creek.
Up comes this old debate again and I know many of you will
disagree....let me take the opportunity to scratch that itch.
Having collected several times with one of the discoverer of this
important (yet another in Garfield County) North American find, I
will tell you that the greatest need (besides the need for discovery)
within their camp is money. The discoverers are private individuals
with no institutional affiliation, have been paying their own gas for
years, fixing their own beat up cars, educated themselves and have
payed their dues in the field. They have never gotten rich doing
paleontology based on their previous adventures. They just broke
even. Finally, though seemingly somewhat clumsily, they discovered
a really important find. Good for them and good for science. These
guys have a true love for fossils that goes way beyond obsession. If
they didn't find it, the discovery may not have happened in the first
place or much later down the road. This is really big country up
here (for those of you that haven't been here) and there is NO
substitute for trained eyes walking lots of hills.
True enough, these animals will be collected for and sold to the
highest bidder. Hopefully, the scientific community will have first
pick and perhaps even a rich Montana resident will belly up and put
them in a local museum. These are side issues to my discussion
however. The important thing here is, without contributions of
private fellows like Mark Eatman, paleontology would be a more more
boring place. Specimens from private individuals fill museums across
the country. It is of course highly likely that a private collector
will snap this fossil up. Fortunately, the science will out live
that private individual and the specimens will eventually get donated
to a museum by the estate.
How is this different than not finding the fossil for 100 years (when
science would finally get to see it) or worse not finding it at all
only for erosion to destroy the fossil. My point is that it is
better to find the things, get them out of the ground (hopefully with
some scientific support and guidance) thereby saving them from
eventual destruction than not find them at all. What many just don't
get is, science will get to study the thing eventually. It is better
then to have professional paleontologists work with the commercial
guys to retrieve as much context as possible during the excavation.
Many have the attitude that commercial guys are bad guys so don't
work with them at all. This is where valuable scientific data is
lost, (because of attitude). I think we are lucky to have commercial
guys (at least some of them). The SVP needs to change it's policy.
Frank (Rooster) Bliss