Parks Canada recovers 45 fossils stolen from Burgess Shale and fines $20,000

LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA — A Quebec resident has been fined $20,000 for taking 45 fossils from three National Parks in the Rocky Mountains, including an internationally renowned fossil site.

Parks Canada says in a press release that in 2020, park rangers in Lake Louise, Alta., received a tip from a member of the public about removing fossils from the Burgess Shale, a major fossil site.

An investigation that summer and fall led to a search warrant by Quebec guards and police at a home in the Montreal area in November 2020.

Officials say the search has found 45 fossils, which were identified by an expert at the Royal Ontario Museum as coming from sites in Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.

They say most of the fossils are from the Burgess Shale Marble Canyon Quarry, an area off-limits to the public, in BC’s Kootenay National Park

The individual, whom Parks Canada has not identified, pleaded guilty to two charges in a Cranbrook, BC court last month and was ordered to return the fossils, pay the fine and serve a five-month suspended sentence, including a curfew.

“This is the largest fine yet imposed for the removal of fossils from the Burgess Shale and demonstrates the seriousness of the violation and the importance of this site,” Parks Canada said in a press release on Thursday.

The Burgess Shale is widely known as one of the most important fossil sites in the world. It contains fossil evidence of some of the earliest animals that lived in the oceans more than 505 million years ago and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

A fossil site near Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park was found in 1989 by researchers at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Marble Canyon quarry was discovered in 2012, and more than 10,000 specimens have been recovered from that site by researchers.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 12, 2022.

— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary

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