This trilobite fossil was found stuffed in a sock in a Belgium tourist's backpack.

This trilobite fossil was found stuffed in a sock in a Belgium tourist’s backpack. Photo: Courtesy of Parks Canada

A tourist from Belgium paid an expensive price for going where he wasn't supposed to go and attempting to steal an ancient artifact by putting it into a sock and stuffing it into a backpack.

Fortunately, a hiking guide at the world-famous Burgess Shale Formation in Canada's Yoho National Park spotted the unidentified tourist in a restricted area and alerted wardens, according to CBC News.

The guide told wardens the tourist was collecting fossils near the Walcott Quarry of the Burgess Shale, a fossil field with some artifacts more than 500 million years old.

“We happened to have a helicopter in the area, doing some other work, so we just hopped on and flew in there,” park warden supervisor Jim Mamalis told the Calgary Herald. “He was a bit shocked to see this helicopter descending on him from the sky while he was on the trail.”

Wardens dug through the tourist’s backpack and discovered a trilobite fossil wrapped in a sock.

The tourist was charged with removing a fossil with the intention of selling or trafficking the ancient artifact. A British Columbia provincial court fined him $4,000.

Trail cameras alert wardens when intruders enter restricted areas of the Burgess Shale

Trail cameras alert wardens when intruders enter restricted areas of the Burgess Shale. Photo: Courtesy of Parks Canada

“We charged on that offense based on a few circumstances,” Mamalis told CBC News. “One, he was pretty deceptive when we first encountered him and we first interviewed him, until we discovered the fossil.

“We weren’t sure that he intended to trade or sell this fossil, but it was possible or likely, and it was obvious that he intended to take it across an international border.

“If he had taken it across an international border, he would have committed a couple of other offenses.”

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Each year wardens receive two to four reports of people taking fossils from the Burgess Shale. Trail cameras alert wardens instantly to any intruder entering restricted areas. Hiking guides are good about reporting suspicious activity, too.

Mamalis told CBC News that “a fairly active” black market exists for fossils from the Burgess Shale.

“The value can range from $300 or $400 for a fairly common trilobite fossil, but we’ve seen some of the more rare fossils from that area advertised for sale online for up to $10,000,” he said.

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