Going out into the field to dig for fossils may sound like an easy, simple task. After all, it is just Manitoba! How dangerous can it be? Southern Manitoba houses no poisonous wildlife, few natural disasters, and is generally a safe environment. However, one must always be mindful of the unique threats posed by the Manitoba “back 40”.
One of the first, and most prominent, threats while out in the field is the sun! Southern Manitoba is infamous for the drastic temperature changes that occur year round, even from day to day. As a part of this, Manitoba experiences some intense heat during the summer months, thus, is able to cause severe sunburns and heat stroke for those that are caught in the intense rays of the sun. Out in the field there is often little shelter from the sun and can really damage your skin and deplete your energy for the day as well as make your sick. When you’re out in the field, sunscreen is often one of your best friends to keep you safe from the harmful rays of the sun!
The second threat a fossil hunter may face in the field is loose rocks or falling rocks. Not all fossil hunting is done on flat ground, rather, it can be done on slopes. If there is someone on a cliff above you and they send a large chunk of shale downwards, whether on purpose or by accident, you may find yourself with bruises, blood, or broken bones. You always want to make sure that there is nobody below you to avoid any unnecessary injuries. Going along with the falling shale concept, you would also want to be careful of the slumpage material that collects on these cliffs. It can be difficult to gain proper footing in these conditions and you may find yourself sliding down to the bottom of the hill without even needing to move! Always be aware of the conditions surrounding you to make sure that everyone is safe!
The final threat that a fossil hunter may face is ticks. There are several different types of ticks out there that you may encounter while out in the field. The first is called a deer tick. This is typically the more dangerous of the tick species because they are more commonly known for carrying Lyme Disease. These little suckers are quite small and often hard to find on yourself, so when doing a tick check, you always want to ensure that you look closely. The other, and more common, type of tick is a wood tick. These are much bigger than the deer tick, yet seem to be less harmless, generally speaking. If you are looking for a way to be less scared of these suckers, it is actually quite helpful to know the gender of the tick you are looking at! For wood ticks, if you are looking at a female you will notice that there is a white ring around her neck to give the illusion of “pearls”. If you are looking at a male you will notice that there are two white stripes on his back to give the illusion of “suspenders”. Should you find a tick attached to you, the best course of action is to heat them up which forces them to let go of your skin. You want to avoid just pulling a tick off because it causes it to leave its jaws in your skin which may cause infection or irritation. Then, you can kill them in order to, hopefully, diminish the population. NOTE: flushing them down the toilet doesn’t work! They just swim right back up! Rather, cut them in half or burn them. Now you can feel free to go out into the bush and have no fear of ticks!
Although there are dangers involved in going out into the field, it is always worth it! As long as you are prepared for what lies ahead, being a fossil hunter can be one of the best experiences of your life!