Yukon government paleontologist Grant Zazula and his team discovered a woolly mammoth scapula, complete tusk, leg bones, steppe bison, horses and caribou, among others.

We think we’ve found the bone of an Ice Age fox.adds the scientist.

The find that excites Mr. Zazula the most is a block of frozen mud that now sits in his freezer. We can see a leg bone with skin and hair sticking out of it.

He thinks it’s an Ice Age rabbit, but he won’t know until the fall when he gets a chance to examine it more closely.

The tusk of a woolly mammoth, steppe bison skulls and other Ice Age animal bones, discovered in the Yukon goldfields in June.

Photo: Government of Yukon

Grant Zazula has been exploring the Klondike for many years in search of fossils and he has found a large number of them: woolly mammoths, steppe bison, ancient horses, lions, wolves and others, all dated to 10,000 to 100,000 years before our era.

Yet he continues to be amazed at the idea of ​​discovering unexpected new treasures.

Every year we kind of think we’re going to go to the Klondike to find typical stuff, a little more of this and a little more of that. But, every year, we make radical, astonishing discoveriesexplains Grant Zazula.

Valuable help from minors

If the paleontologist managed to get his hands on these mummified animals, it is thanks in particular to a miner in the region. He found them, collected them and placed them in a freezer before calling Mr. Zazula.

He says gold miners have been finding fossils for 120 years in the Yukon and that without their meticulous work, we wouldn’t know they were there.

I don’t know many places in the world where we have this kind of relationship between industry, mining and paleontology. But here in the Yukon it works greatrejoices Mr. Zazula.

A gold miner at Whitman Creek uses a water cannon to melt the permafrost, which sometimes uncovers gold and fossils of Ice Age animals.

Photo: Government of Yukon

Scott Cocker, a PhD student at the University of Alberta who is part of Grant Zazula’s team, is researching ancient arctic squirrels as well as other animals from samples of DNA found in permafrost. He hopes to identify frozen squirrel nests.

A few months ago, a report surfaced that woolly mammoth DNA had been found in frozen Klondike soil, which is around 6,000 years old. This is amazing, because it tells us that woolly mammoths died out much later than we previously thought.notes Mr. Zazula, adding that the team is now following up on this work.

Throughout the summer, paleontologists from Sweden, France, the United States and the Museum of Nature of Canada will come to lend a hand to Grant Zazula, Scott Cocker, as well as Elizabeth Hall, a territorial government assistant paleontologist , and Susan Hewitson, a paleontology field technician.

They will continue to search for fossils in the Klondike gold fields and will spend approximately two weeks in the Old Crow River area.

In August, they will be joined by a seven-year-old boy from the Make-A-Wish Foundation who wants to become an Ice Age paleontologist. So we’ll make his dream come true and take him with us to collect mammoth bonespromises Mr. Zazula.

With information from Dave White and Michel Proulx


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