Fossils & The Law

The fossilized remains of plants and animals, or traces of their activities, are protected under the Government of Alberta's Historical Resources Act which is one of the strictest fossil protection laws in the world. Violation of the Act is punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or one year in prison.

If you find a fossil, and would like it identified, please complete the following form:

Identify a Fossil Form

HR

Learn More About Fossils

Collecting

There are two methods of collecting fossils:

SURFACE COLLECTING (collecting isolated fossils that are clearly on the surface of the ground) is only permitted on provincial Crown land and on private land with the landowner’s permission.

EXCAVATING refers to dislodging or digging up fossils embedded or buried in the ground, or within a rock face. Excavating fossils in Alberta almost always requires a permit, which is only available to professional palaeontologists and is issued by Alberta Culture and Tourism, via the RTMP.

ammonite

Ammonites

There are specific regulations governing the collection of ammonites in Alberta. Depending on the circumstances, you may need an Ammonite Shell Agreement from Alberta Energy in order to excavate ammonites in Alberta. Please see Alberta Energy’s Ammonite Shell Toolkit for more information. You can contact the Resource Management Program at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology for more details.

Fossils in Protected Areas

Fossils may not be collected in any provincial/national park or protected area. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is located in Midland Provincial Park, 598 hectares of grassland in the Red Deer River valley. Collecting in this area is not permitted.

Recording

You can help us by reporting any fossil discoveries, as the location of a fossil is almost as important as the specimen itself. If you find a fossil:

  1. Photograph it and note any visible features. Context is important in palaeontology, so be sure to photograph the fossil where you found it.
  2. Located it on a map, using permanent landmarks or GPS if available.
  3. Leave it buried. If a piece of the fossil is laying on the surface of the ground, and surface collecting is legal in that area, you may bring that piece to the Museum. 
  4. Contact the Museum to report the find - provide the location, description, and, if possible, photographs of the specimen where it was found. 

Tips from the general public sometimes help palaeontologists make amazing discoveries. By reporting information about a fossil, you could be making an important contribution to science!

Keeping

If you live in Alberta and legally surface collect a fossil, you may keep it. However, you may not sell, alter, or remove the specimen from the province without permission from the Government of Alberta.

To gain ownership of a fossil, you must be issued a Disposition Certificate for that specimen by the Government of Alberta. Applications for disposition can be obtained from the Resource Management Program at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Please note that only four types of fossils are eligible for disposition: ammonites, petrified wood, leaf impressions, and oysters.

Selling

Fossils collected in Alberta cannot be sold without obtaining a Disposition Certificate from the Government of Alberta through the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Fossils sold in Alberta shops are often collected in the United States, Europe, and Africa where laws regarding the collection and ownership of fossils are different.

Further Information

For more information on the Historical Resources Act, the legislation under which Alberta fossils are protected, contact the Royal Tyrrell Museum's Resource Management Program.

To view the Historical Resources Act online visit The Queen's Printer - Province of Alberta.

To purchase a copy of the Historical Resources Act, contact:

Publication Services
Main Floor, Park Plaza
10611 - 98 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2P7

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©2010 Government of Alberta and ©2010 Royal Tyrrell Museum | Last Review/Update - April 09, 2016