A gold miner in the Canadian territory of the Yukon didn’t strike gold but unearthed one of best mummified woolly mammoths the world has ever seen. The perfectly preserved frozen animal was recently discovered by the miner, who was digging through permafrost with a front-end loader when he struck it.
The baby mammal is “one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world” says the Canadian paleontologist who was called out about the find.
“She’s perfect and she’s beautiful,” Grant Zazula, the paleontologist told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “She has a trunk. She has a tail. She has tiny little ears. She has the little prehensile end of the trunk where she could use it to grab grass.”
The frozen baby mammoth is thought to be 35,000 years old and has much of its skin and hair intact. Officials said the find ranks as the most complete mummified mammal found on the North American continent.
Scientists believe the woolly mammoth was only around a month old when she died. The mammoth was discovered on the traditional territory of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation near the aptly named Eureka Creek. Elders have held a ceremony and named the calf Nun cho ga, meaning “big baby animal” in the Hän language.
“It’s amazing,” Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Peggy Kormendy said in a statement. “It took my breath away when they removed the tarp.”
Zazula suspects the infant mammoth became trapped in mud leading to a quick burial. The same fate almost happened a second time to her remains after a rain storm threatened to wash her away. Zazula told CBC that he received the call of the find from the mining company on a holiday. He had to scramble to find some geologists who could travel quickly to the site and recover the mummy.
Said Zazula, “[T]he amazing thing is, within an hour of them being there to do the work, the sky opened up, it turned black, lightning started striking and rain started pouring in. So if she wasn’t recovered at that time, she would have been lost in the storm.”
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and scientists will now work together to determine the next steps for Nun cho ga.