Importance of keen eyes and an appreciation of heritage

October 06, 2017

Dr. Dirk Kotze is known to many in the Peace Region as a psychiatrist, and less so as the catalyst for the discovery of a fossil bone.

At the end of August Dr. Kotze’s aunt, Ms. Sue Orchard, was visiting from New Zealand. She is an avid rock-hound, and therefore was very interested in all the recent discoveries in the Peace Region. Dr. Kotze and his wife, Ms. Nicky Taylor, decided to give Ms. Orchard a tour of the region with a focus on fossils.

Day 1 involved a visit to the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum outside Wembley. On Day 2 they visited the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery in Tumbler Ridge, signed up for a tour to the dinosaur footprint site at Cabin Pool on Flatbed Creek, and learned more about the region’s palaeontology.

Fired up by these experiences, they decided to explore on their own on Day 3, keeping an eye out for interesting rocks and fossils. Not long after heading out, Ms. Taylor spotted what looked like a piece of fossilized bone.

Dirk Kotze and his aunt Sue Orchard with the bone

She explains: “I would have thought nothing of it normally. I would probably even have ignored it, but given our experiences the previous two days it was of a lot more interest. I pointed it out to the other two, and Sue picked it up. It was much heavier than we anticipated.”

The group then did the right things: they noted the exact location and took photos, after which Dr. Kotze contacted his medical colleague Dr. Charles Helm in Tumbler Ridge and thus the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC, the research arm of the TRMF).

PRPRC palaeontologists Dr. Richard McCrea and Dr. Lisa Buckley were able to examine the specimen in September. It is indeed of considerable interest, and unlike anything that has been reported from the region up until now. Initial opinions are that it does not look like a Pleistocene (Ice Ages) bone, but is more likely from the Cretaceous Period from a marine deposit – in other words, it belongs to an ocean-dwelling reptile, not a land animal like the dinosaurs. Details will emerge after further study and consultation, after which this will become a suitable specimen for exhibition in the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery in Tumbler Ridge, where it can be enjoyed by all British Columbians and visitors to our province.

Such discoveries emphasize the benefits of keen pairs of eyes, and of reporting these critically important examples of our distant heritage to the scientific experts we are fortunate to have right here in the Peace Region.

For further information please contact:

Dr. Richard T. McCrea: 250 242 3466 or
Dr. Lisa G. Buckley: 250 242 3466 or