Parks Canada recovers 45 fossils stolen from Burgess Shale, levies $20,000 fine


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 known fossil site.

Parks Canada says in a news release that park wardens in Lake Louise, Alta., received a tip in 2020 from a member of the public about fossils being removed from the Burgess Shale, a significant fossil site.

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

Officials say that search recovered 45 fossils, which were identified by an expert from the Royal Ontario Museum as originating from sites in Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay national parks.

They say most of the fossils came from the Burgess Shale Marble Canyon Quarry, an area not accessible to the public, in Kootenay National Park in B.C.

The individual, whom Parks Canada has not identified, pleaded guilty to two charges in a Cranbrook, B.C., court last month and was required to return the fossils, pay the fine and serve a five- month conditional sentence that includes a curfew.

“This is the largest fine that has been levied to date for the removal of fossils from the Burgess Shale and demonstrates the seriousness of the offence and the importance of this site,” Parks Canada said Thursday in a news release.

The Burgess Shale is widely known as one of the most significant fossil sites in the world. It contains fossil evidence of some of the earliest animals that existed 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 with 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.