One Nation, Under God

A new creature added to my list

I’ve packed out a lot of critters in my time, elk, moose, deer, antelope, and bear among them. I recently had the opportunity to add another species to that list: hadrosaur.

A duck-billed dinosaur that roamed these parts during the Late Cretaceous period, the remains of this one were found just north of town a few years ago.

By the time I arrived at the site, the tail section of the hadrosaur was encased in three plaster jackets, ready for transport to a museum in Florida.

First, however, they had to be loaded onto a specially built sled, moved from the precarious ledge upon which they had been resting, brought to the top of a ridge, and then down the other side where they would be loaded onto a trailer.

It was a difficult task, certainly more than half a dozen young, strong men, and a couple of old ones could accomplish by themselves. It was made more difficult by the steep, rocky terrain, which made reaching the site with ATVs impossible.

Enter Frosty and Charlie, a well-matched team of pulling horses who did the heavy work.

One at a time, the jackets were loaded on the sled, hooked to the team, and slowly, but steadily dragged to the top of the ridge. There the team was unhooked and the humans took over, pushing and pulling the sled downhill to a relatively level spot where an ATV with a tow rope waited.

A job that began shortly after sunrise took the better part of the day, but by mid-afternoon, it was done, the three dino jackets sitting securely on a trailer at the bottom of the ridge.

It was a hot and dry day, a far different climate than the web-footed, partly aquatic hadrosaur had known when it roamed Phillips County. But hot and dry is just what other critters need.

Like horned lizards.

I knew they were native to Montana, but I’d never found one. Commonly called horned toads, they are somewhat prehistoric looking, and appropriately, the first one I found was only a few yards from where the hadrosaur had been discovered.

It was scrambling along the track left by the sled when I picked it up. No doubt the commotion of the day had disturbed the little reptile.

Or perhaps he just wanted to say goodbye to an ancient relative who just happened to be moving to Florida.

Parker Heinlein is at [email protected]


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