Palaeontological resources in Alberta are protected under the Historical Resources Act. This not only includes fossils, but also palaeontological significant sites. There are three sites designated in the province: the Willow Creek Hoodoos, Grande Cache Trackways, and Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Egg Site (Devil’s Coulee). The Resource Management program at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (RTMP) manages the protection and public use at these sites. I am going to discuss some of the changes that we have recently made at Devil’s Coulee to improve the protection and visitor experience at the site.
Devil’s Coulee is the richest dinosaur nesting site found in Canada and the third nesting site discovered in North America. The site was found in May 1987 near Warner, Alberta and was designated a Provincial Historic Resource same year due to its significance. Finds at the site include young dinosaurs, eggs, embryonic bones, and nests of hadrosaurs, as well as fossils from other types of animals from 75 million years ago. With the significant discoveries and the ongoing research producing new discoveries, the site is very sensitive in nature.
Since the mid-1990s, the RTMP has worked with the Devil’s Coulee Cooperating Society and its museum in Warner to provide tours to the site. Over the past two years, we have been working to find a balance between protection at Devil’s Coulee and quality visitor experiences. Currently, the site is only accessible through a guided tour. This will continue as a form of protection from theft and vandalism, but also as a way to provide an enhanced visitor experience. Improvements have been made to training the tour guides to increase their knowledge of fossils, geology, and dinosaurs. As many of the fossils are very small, we are also developing a dedicated path for the guides to follow, and will install a low fence in the most sensitive areas to ensure that fossils are not inadvertently destroyed during tours.
The RTMP is updating photos on the signs and creating a relevant story line for the hike to follow. One sign will even include touch specimens of eggshell. People who visit the site can also take part in an activity to search for fossils at a microsite. We are adding a fossil box for people to identify the fossils they find to ones in the box. This provides the opportunity to see and touch real fossils. However, it is important to note that as a designated site, removal of fossils from Devil’s Coulee is illegal. Visitors are informed of this and the tour guides carefully monitor all activities to prevent theft. We hope that with the guides, signs, and activities we will accommodate a number of learning styles so that everyone enjoys their visit.
We are happy to be able to run tours out to a sensitive site such as this and provide a variety of interpretive activities, while still maintaining the integrity of the site. Implementation of the new protective and interpretive elements is still in progress, but should be ready for visitors to enjoy by May 2015. If you would like more information about tours at Devil’s Coulee you can visit the Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum website: www.devilscoulee.com
– Jen Bancescu, Resource Management