By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) – Dr. Joe Sertich spent the summer looking for horned dinosaur fossils in North Dakota, but didn’t know his next find would be closer to home.

“Dinosaurs in Denver are super exciting, so as soon as I realized it was a dinosaur; part of a skull, part of a body and there’s potential for a lot more, it’s pretty rare and exciting,” said Sertich, the Curator of Dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Dr. Joseph Sertich (credit: CBS)

A construction crew working to build a new public safety facility for the City of Thornton near 132nd and Quebec found some discolored dirt a few days ago. Sertich raced to the find first thing Monday morning and realized it was a triceratops.

(credit: City Of Thornton)

“It just takes a sharp eye from one worker that there’s something unusual,” Sertich said. “We want to come in, collect fast, and we don’t want to delay the project.”

This is only the fourth triceratops found around Denver to anyone’s knowledge at the DMNS.

“In Denver we have the last window into the time of dinosaurs, we have triceratops, we have T-Rex, we have duckbilled dinosaurs all along the Front Range. But, in Denver we’ve paved over most of those historic localities,” Sertich said.

The construction area where the fossil was found (credit: CBS)

Scientists will work over the next few days to dig up as many bones as possible. Right now, a skull and a few other bones have been found but are still in the ground.

“There’s a really good chance we’re going to see other parts of the front of the skull or parts of the frill and there might be more parts of the body,” Dr. Sertich said. “It looks like these bones might extend 10 or 15 feet so there could be a lot more of the skeleton at the site.”

Workers at the museum will then cast the bones in plaster and burlap, then transport them to a lab inside the DMNS where it will take a few months to fully clean and preserve the bones.

(credit: City of Thornton)

“To finally hit one of these dinosaurs on a construction site it basically what I’ve been waiting for for the past six years,” Sertich said.

Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.