5,000-Year-Old Bison Skull Found At Syncrude

“This skull doesn’t tell that story by itself but represents a piece of that puzzle. We also have not received a lot of fossils from northern Alberta because it is covered with the vegetation and the soils are fairly acidic, which can break down bones quickly.”



on July 25, an employee was walking down a new access road being built for the aurora site when something caught his eye.

Upon closer inspection, the foreman with North American Construction Group realized he had spotted something important.

“I do a lot of hunting and fishing and I figured it might be a bison based on the skull. It was sticking out of the material. We had a lot of rain at that time. I figured the rain would have washed away the material covering it,” says Sheldon Alwayrd.

Sheldon immediately alerted Syncrude’s mine operations, who sent out Geologist Patrick Dunbar to investigate the discovery while the North American crew taped off the area to protect what they found.

Patrick carefully documented the finding by taking photographs before speaking with Chris Jass, the curator of Quaternary (Ice Age) palaeontology at the Royal Alberta Museum about preserving the skull.

“We take the utmost care to preserve any fossils or artifacts found on our leases,” says Patrick, who joined Syncrude in 2017. “Syncrude has put protocols in place to ensure these finds are protected.”

The skull remains at Syncrude and will be transported to the museum once COVID-19 restrictions ease.


More from Alberta News


  • Edmonton Sunny intervals -5°C Sunny intervals
  • Fort McMurray Sunny intervals -3°C Sunny intervals
  • Grande Prairie Sunny intervals -6°C Sunny intervals
  • Slave Lake Light snow -4°C Light snow
  • Lac La Biche Sunny intervals -4°C Sunny intervals
  • High Level Sunny -2°C Sunny