Operation Dino-Lift
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Airlifting dinosaur fossils

Loading the remains of an Albertosaurus onto a semitrailer for transport to the Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.


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Bureau of Land Management Bureau of Indian Affairs
Army National Guard New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Dinosaur Specimen Airlifted from New Mexico Public Lands
The fossilized remains of a large meat eating dinosaur were recently recovered from the Bisti Badlands, south of Farmington, New Mexico. The remains of this dinosaur are probably those of a large Tyrannosaur, Albertosaurus. They appear to be the most complete specimen of a meat-eating dinosaur ever found in New Mexico.

Albertosaurus was every dinosaur's worse nighmareThe skeleton of this dinosaur was removed in two pieces after being encased in a protective plaster "jacket", each weighing nearly a ton. Because the skeleton was located in the remote and inaccessible terrain of the Badlands, it was removed by helicopter and deposited on a large flatbed trailer for transport to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, in Albuquerque, NM.

The Albertosaurus skeleton is an extremely rare find and is of exceptionally high scientific value. It is estimated that 40 to 60% of the skeleton was preserved. Albertosaurus was every dinosaur’s worst nightmare. It was a formidable predator that may have attacked in pairs or small groups.

Everything was done to facilitate the excavation while maintaining the integrity of the fragile BadlandsPaleontologists have studied and researched this area for nearly a century. The Badlands feature an exposure of rocks known as the Fruitland/Kirtland Formations that represent a time near the end of the Cretaceous Period (approximately 75 to 80 million years ago). These continental sediments chronicle the time near the end of the Age of Dinosaurs. This sequence of rock formations is one of only four known in the world that record this transition and may help explain why the dinosaurs became extinct.

Because the specimen is so valuable to science, everything was done to facilitate the excavation while maintaining the integrity of the fragile Badlands. The The specimen will be put on display sometime in 2001 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) worked closely with paleontologists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) to best minimize the impact on the land, and ensure that the excavation site was returned to its original condition. Because the area couldn’t be reached by motor vehicles, paleontologists and volunteers camped about two miles from the sites and hiked in each day, carrying their materials and tools.

In addition to being scientifically important, the skeleton will have great public educational value. Once studied, it will go on display at the NMMNHS in Albuquerque. Work proceeds slowly so as not to damage the specimen. Upon completion of study the specimen will be put on display at the museum sometime in 2001.

Dr. Tom Williamson, Curator of Paleontology, NMMNHS, in cooperation with the BLM lead the excavation of the specimen. Dr. Williamson was assisted by a group of volunteers affiliated with the museum, BLM wilderness specialists, Chris Barns and Richard Simmons, and BLM’s regional paleontologist, Mike O’Neill.

The Bisti Badlands are public lands administered by the BLM. The Blackhawk helicopter was provided by the Army National Guard, and the semitrailer and tractor were provided by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Southern Ute Agency in Colorado.

Operation dino-lift


Photos:  Rem Hawes
(except where noted)
Web Design: Jim Salas
New Mexico State Office
Bureau of Land Management