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New Smithsonian exhibit features ‘Nation’s T. rex’, which hails from Montana

Posted at 9:48 AM, Jun 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 11:50:36-04

BILLINGS – A brand new fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History will feature the ‘Nations T. rex’, which just happens to hail from Montana.

Kathy Wankel was with her family camping near the Fort Peck Reservoir in September of 1988. Wankel said she was ‘rock hounding’ in the area when she caught a glimpse of something.

“Really all it was, was the corner of an envelope size,” Wankel said Tuesday. “But I could see the webbing of the bone marrow, and the light was just right that I just knew it was bone.”

Wankel and her husband began to dig but were unable to make much progress with the pocketknife they had on hand.

The family then had to pack up and go home to their ranch about 50 miles south of the area for the start of the school year. They were finally able to return to the spot about a month later.

Montana T. Rex
A brand new fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History will feature a T. rex that hails from Montana. (MTN News photo)

“What we dug out turned out to be a shoulder blade and the lower arm of a T. rex,” said Wankel.

They took the bones home and called the Museum of the Rockies. Two summers of digging later, the full fossil was unearthed.

The T. rex then called the Bozeman museum home for over two decades, before it was sent to Washington, D.C. on a loan to the Smithsonian in 2014.

On Saturday, the new “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils” will be unveiled at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, with the “Nations T. rex” a prominent feature.

“They told us that 6-7 million people from all over the world go through the Natural History Museum every year,” said Wankel. “For a Montana T. rex to be the Nation’s T. rex…it’s cool.”

The Wankels are traveling to Washington, D.C. this weekend. The couple, along with about 140 of their closest friends and family, will get a sneak peek of the hall before it opens to the public.

-Samantha Sullivan reporting for MTN News