Alberta has some of the strictest fossil protection laws in the world. The fossilized remains of plants and animals, or traces of their activities, are protected under the Government of Alberta's Historical Resources Act. Violation of the Act is punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or one year in prison.
If you find a fossil, the location is as important as the fossil itself.
If the fossil is found lying on the surface, refer to Collecting (below). Fossils (buried or on the surface) in provincial parks and other protected areas cannot be collected. Refer to Fossils in Protected Areas (below).
Include your first and last name, telephone number, email address, the location of the find (with GPS coordinates, if possible), and a photograph of the fossil.
Tips from the public can help palaeontologists make amazing discoveries. You could make an important contribution to science by reporting information about a fossil!
There are two methods of collecting fossils.
Surface collecting: collecting isolated fossils that are clearly on the surface of the ground. This method is only allowed on provincial Crown land, and on private land with the landowner's permission.
Excavating: dislodging or digging up fossils embedded or buried in the ground, or within a rock face. Excavating fossils requires a permit that is only available to professional palaeontologists. Permits are issued by Alberta Culture through the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
- Fossils in Protected Areas
You cannot collect fossils in any provincial or national park, or protected area. Collecting is not allowed in Midland Provincial Park, where the Museum is located.
If you live in Alberta and legally surface collect a fossil, you may keep it as custodian, but ownership remains with the Province of Alberta. You cannot sell, alter, or remove the specimen from the province without permission from the Government of Alberta.
Only four types of fossils are eligible for personal ownership: ammonite shell, petrified wood, leaf impressions, and oysters.
To gain ownership of these fossils, you must apply for a Disposition Certificate from the Government of Alberta through the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Resource Management Program.
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 fossil protection laws are different.
For more information on the Historical Resources Act, contact our Resource Management Program.
To read the Historical Resources Act online, visit the Alberta King's Printerpage.
Head of Resource Management