Man jailed, fined for using sledgehammer to dig up dinosaur fossils in B.C.

A fossilized dinosaur footprint is pictured in a river bed that runs through Dinosaur Valley State Park, southwest of Dallas.  (Paul Baker/Friends of Dinosaur Valley - image credit)
A fossilized dinosaur footprint is pictured in a river bed that runs through Dinosaur Valley State Park, southwest of Dallas. (Paul Baker/Friends of Dinosaur Valley - image credit)

A man who dug up fossilized dinosaur footprints from a protected area in northern B.C. has been fined and sentenced to nearly a month in jail.

A provincial court judgment released this week said Bennward Dale Ingram and three others used power tools and a sledgehammer for more than two hours to extract tracks from the Six Peaks Dinosaur Track site near Hudson's Hope, around 240 kilometres north of Prince George, B.C., in summer 2020.

"Large slabs of fossil tracks were either removed, or were damaged by being broken up, and were possibly destroyed. The power tools used included a portable generator, air compressor and air chisel, and heavy-duty hand tools including sledgehammers and pry bars," read the ruling.

"Mr. Ingram was observed using a sledgehammer and pry bar and other excavation tools."

The ruling said the "excavation" only stopped when witnesses showed up and the men abandoned the site.

Preliminary studies of the Six Peaks Dinosaur Track site, first discovered in 2008, found more than 500 dinosaur footprints across roughly 750 square metres of land — about a tenth of an acre.

The tracks were from a range of dinosaurs that roamed the sandy terrain during the early Cretaceous period up to 125 million years ago — including some from three of the "major" groups of Cretaceous dinosaurs, the theropods, ornithopods and sauropods.

The Six Peaks Dinosaur Track site has been protected under the provincial Land Act since 2016, making it illegal to use the land for anything other than conservation and preservation.

Ingram, who is 39 and lives in Alberta, was charged and pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully excavating on Crown land under the Land Act.

Judge Darin Reeves handed Ingram a $15,000 fine and sentenced him to 25 days in jail.

He described the site as one of the "most important track sites in North America" for its diversity of fossils, and lamented that the stolen tracks have not been recovered.

The ruling added that the sandstone damaged during the illegal excavation is now far more likely to erode faster.