Fossil Regulations in Kentucky
Fossils are generally not protected by regulation in Kentucky, although the normal property rights of landowners apply, and in the case of fossils found underground, property rights of the owners of mineral rights apply. National forests and similar conservation-oriented areas may restrict collection of many natural materials (such as rocks, minerals, fossils, wood, wildflowers, etc.), so you should check before removing anything, including fossils. Fossil (and other natural materials) collecting is also prohibited in national and state parks. You should always check the rules and regulations regarding local parks and recreation areas, and get permission from landowners prior to collecting. Anyone collecting fossils along public highways or rights-of-way should seek permission from the appropriate local, state, or federal authority, because regulations may prohibit stopping along the roadway, except in the case of emergency, for public safety reasons.
An exception to the above guidelines may apply to Pleistocene (Ice Age) fossil bones. In some cases, Pleistocene bones may fall under archaeological regulations (see archaeological regulations below).
Another exception is fossils found in caves. Caves, cave surfaces, and cave contents are protected by the Kentucky Cave Protection Act (see archaeological regulations below).
Although most Kentucky fossils are not protected or regulated, fossils are part of the state’s heritage, and the Kentucky Geological Survey keeps an inventory of fossils that have been found in the state. Invertebrate fossils (shells, etc.) are common in much of the state, but vertebrate (bone) fossils are rare. If you find interesting fossils, especially vertebrate fossils, during excavations, we would appreciate being contacted. You can email the Kentucky Geological Survey with a photo of your find at or call 859-257-5500.
Fossils differ from historical manmade artifacts (such as arrowheads, etc.) and burials, which are protected by archaeological regulations in Kentucky. You can review the state’s archeological and antiquities regulations at the University of Kentucky Anthropology Department’s website.
Archaeological questions should be addressed to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. More information can be found on their website