Nearly complete baby mummified woolly mammoth discovered in Canada

(CNN) — They were panning for gold in the Canadian Klondike permafrost. Instead, they discovered what Canadian experts say is the most complete mummified woolly mammoth ever found in North America.

Miners working in the Klondike goldfields discovered the frozen woolly mammoth calf on Tuesday, June 21 in Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin traditional territory, according to a press release from the Yukon government.

The elders of the Tr’ondëk Hwëchʼina group of First Nations who have lived along the Yukon River for millennia named the mammoth calf Nun cho ga, which means “big baby animal” in the Hän language.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph called the discovery “a remarkable recovery for our First Nation” in the statement.

“We look forward to working with the Government of Yukon in the next steps of the process to move these remains forward in a way that honors our traditions, culture and laws. We are grateful to the elders who have guided us thus far and to the name they have given us.” Joseph said.

The baby is female and likely died during the ice age more than 30,000 years ago, the statement said. Although a partial mammoth calf was found in Alaska in 1948, Nun cha go is the first nearly complete and best-preserved woolly mammoth found in North America, according to the release.

“It’s amazing,” Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Peggy Kormendy said in the press release. “I gasped when they took the tarp down. We should all treat it with respect.”

A mummified baby woolly mammoth, still covered in fur and fur, has been found in Canada.

Recovering the mummified calf required the collaboration of Treadstone Mining, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin and the Yukon government, the statement said.

“As an Ice Age paleontologist, one of my lifelong dreams was to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth,” Yukon paleontologist Grant Zazula said in a statement. “That dream has come true today. Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible Ice Age mummified animals ever discovered in the world. I’m thrilled to get to know her better.”

Scientists believe woolly mammoths, which roamed North America alongside wild horses, cave lions and giant bison, died out around 4,000 years ago. As an adult, Nun cho ga could measure up to 4 meters at the withers.

Geomorphologist Dan Shugar described on Twitter his experience helping to recover the mummified calf, noting the “incredible” preservation of nails, skin, hair, trunk and intestines.

“Being part of the recovery of Nun cho ga, the woolly mammoth calf found in the Klondike permafrost this week (on the Solstice and Indigenous Peoples Day!), has been the most exciting science thing I have ever done. I participated, without a doubt,” he wrote.

Mona Watkins

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