We are all kept in contact while prospecting via decent walkie-talkies. The claimed 36 mile range for our units was reduced to around 5 miles in the Badlands…enough so we can comb large areas in split groups. Today the two Jason’s were off together prospecting on the opposite side of a typical Hell Creek washout. We were doing the usual locate, GPS, map and written descriptions of everything we found. As they waded through the long grass Jason Poole heard the sound that makes anyone’s heart skip a beat. The rattle of a rattlesnake is a sign that it knows exactly where you are…but it is rare that you know the same of the snake. Their camouflage is too perfect, especially in long grass. Most sane people run away from this sound, shoot at the sound or beat the said sound with a large stick or any available sharp object...but our Jason’s, they laugh in the face of such sounds and seek its origin. The pair are simply bonkers…I simply asked “why”, they simply answered, “we want to get a decent photo of a rattler”….of course! Thankfully, the snake avoided them…I must work on their suicidal snake tendencies! This reminds me of an old friend, Duncan McIlroy, who is based at Memorial University (Canada). He, a colleague and I were driving across the Valdez Peninsula in Argentina and had been taking pictures all day of various beasties, but we had yet to take a photo of a skunk…yes, I hear you say, “that’s possibly worse than a snake”…such ventures are always bound to end in a sticky (or in this case smelly) end. This is a tail I will tell another day…but at least we survived with photographic evidence!
Today we got more than lucky on the theropod front. Literally meaning “beast-foot” this group includes all predatory dinosaurs and even their descendants, the birds! In the Hell Creek Formation this includes the ubiquitous Tyrannosaurus rex, various dromaeosaurs (nasty little predators aka Jurassic Park Velociraptor) and a few less well-known beasties such as Nanotyrannus. Today we managed to pick up various body parts from almost all of these animals. Something I have never done in my whole career as a palaeontologist, so you can imagine we were all totally gob-smacked!