Yukon miners unearth trove of prehistoric fossils

·2 min read
Miner Trey Charlie stands with a massive fossil he and his crew found near Dawson City, Yukon, a couple of weeks ago. The crew figures they dug up two almost-complete mammoth skeletons. (Submitted by Trey Charlie - image credit)
Miner Trey Charlie stands with a massive fossil he and his crew found near Dawson City, Yukon, a couple of weeks ago. The crew figures they dug up two almost-complete mammoth skeletons. (Submitted by Trey Charlie - image credit)

A crew of miners working outside Dawson City, Yukon, has unearthed a pile of fossils that appear to be the nearly-complete skeletons of two woolly mammoths.

"Throughout the day I was picking bones. Ribs, teeth, all kinds of things," said Trey Charlie, a placer miner at the Little Flake Mine on the Indian River.

"It's probably one of the best days I've had working. It's so much fun to discover these things."

Charlie and a co-worker were working with excavators about two weeks ago, moving mud at the mine site when they found a tusk.

"We were amazed by the size of it and how heavy it was, so we brought it back to the yard," he said.

Submitted by Trey Charlie
Submitted by Trey Charlie

Another scoop with the excavator had "bones falling out of the bucket," Charlie said. That's when the crew stopped work to search for more.

Placer miners in central Yukon have been digging up ice age mammal skulls, bones, tusks and fossils for more than a century — essentially, since the Klondike Gold Rush.

Mammoth bones are relatively common. The large, furry elephants roamed Alaska and Yukon until about 12,000 years ago.

Beth Zaiken/Centre for Palaeogenetics via REUTERS
Beth Zaiken/Centre for Palaeogenetics via REUTERS

Charlie said the bones his crew found last month appear to add up to two almost-complete skeletons with teeth, ribs, legs and more.

The Yukon government has now taken possession of the bones for further study after the mine called them to report the discovery. Miners are legally required to report such finds to the territorial government.

Submitted by Trey Charlie
Submitted by Trey Charlie

A Yukon government spokesperson said paleontologists are now studying the bones. Nobody was available for an interview.

The Little Flake Mine has a crew of about 25 people and it's where the Discovery Channel's reality TV show Gold Rush is filmed. However, film crews from the show weren't there when the bones were found.

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