A seven-foot-long triceratops skull has been unearthed in the Badlands of South Dakota near Lemmon by a group from Westminister College of Fulton, Missouri.
The excitement began last year as geology professor David Schmidt and about a half-dozen students from Westminster were excavating fossil remains on the Grand River National Grassland, as the school has done for several years.
The expeditions usually find just fragments of dinosaur bones, but this time they were told a rancher had discovered something unusual poking out of the earth. Schmidt’s standing permit with the U-S Forest Service gave him permission to excavate the area and he concluded after careful examination that the object was the tip of a triceratops horn.
He realized it would require months of careful excavation to determine if there was more than just the tip, so he reluctantly wrapped up the dig and made plans to return this summer after the Forest Service gave clearance for full excavation.
Schmidt returned with a volunteer team of students and alumni who were thrilled to find they were working on a full triceratops skull that when unearthed weighed 3,000 pounds. Schmidt says “It was so exciting … we just didn’t believe it. Now we’re just living the dream out.”
This summer’s expedition, Schmidt’s 7th with Westminster, had to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, which had led the school to cancel the Geoscience Field Course that gives college credit to students on the dig.
Schmidt says it was just a hiccup as 3 current students stepped forward as volunteers to join 4 alumni volunteers for the dig in June and July. The group camped safely outside for the entire 2 months
The skull, named “Shady” by Schmidt’s students in honor of residents of the nearby town of Shadehill, SD, was eventually loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled the Westminster campus, where it rests in a “secure location” until the school raises enough money for restoration.
First, though – Westminster must enlarge the entrance to the Environmental Science laboratory in its science building so that Shady can be brought in.