Large 3-Toed Dinosaur Trackway Fossil

Collecting Fossils & Artifacts

What are fossils?

Fossils are any life forms or indications of life naturally preserved from previous geological ages. They may include plant or animal fossils. Animal fossils may be either invertebrate or vertebrate. Invertebrate are animals without skeletal structures, such as insects, crabs, clams, and snails. Vertebrates have a skeletal structure like dinosaurs, mammals, sharks, or fish. Collecting burrows, bones, teeth, tusks, footprints, and other traces of activity from vertebrates is illegal.

What are artifacts?

Artifacts are items left from human civilizations of the past. They include arrowheads, pottery, pot shards, old bottles, pieces of equipment, and buildings. These items are part of our national heritage and researchers are still learning much from them.

Where can I collect fossils or artifacts in Alaska?

  • Bureau of Land Management lands — contact the site management for what is permitted
  • National Parks — it is illegal to collect artifacts or fossils without a permit
  • National Wildlife Refuges — it is illegal to collect artifacts or fossils without a permit
  • Private Property — if the property owner gives permission
  • State Parks — it is illegal to collect artifacts or fossils without a permit

How do I get a permit?

Permits are issued for scientific research. They are given to people with specific qualifications that include related college education and experience. Permit holders must also have a letter from a federal or state agency-approved facility accepting collected fossils or artifacts for scientific study and public display. All collected items must be placed in the facility and cannot be kept by the collector.