Mummified ice age specimens unveiled in Dawson

Joint news release with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in 

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph, Premier Sandy Silver and Minister of Tourism and Culture Jeanie Dendys will be at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre today to unveil the mummified remains of a caribou and a wolf pup found on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory.

The ancient ice age specimens, both radiocarbon dated to over 50,000 years old, were discovered and reported by placer mining operations in the Klondike region and recovered by members of the Yukon Paleontology Program for research and analysis.

Remarkably well-preserved, with hair, skin and muscle tissue intact, specimens of this quality are extremely rare and have garnered a great deal of international scientific interest.

The mummified animals will stay on display in Dawson for the remainder of the month after which they will be incorporated into an exhibit at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse.

These world-class finds shed light on Yukon’s fascinating ice age history and will help us understand how these long gone creatures lived in the environment they inhabited. I commend the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association and the individual miners who made the discoveries for their timely reporting and cooperation in recovering these invaluable ancient animals. Through co-management with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in of these and future discoveries in the region, we can ensure they are given a comprehensive interpretation and presented with crucial cultural and historical context.

Premier Sandy Silver

Together with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in we are excited to share these significant discoveries that showcase Yukon’s unique scientific and cultural history. These specimens will help scientists learn more about the ancient mammal species that roamed Beringia, increasing our knowledge and ability to share the stories of this lost, ancient land.

Minister of Tourism and Culture Jeanie Dendys

For Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, wolf and caribou are very important and interconnected. The caribou has fed and clothed our people for thousands of years. The wolf maintains balance within the natural world, keeping the caribou healthy. These were an amazing find, and it’s a great opportunity to work collaboratively with the Government of Yukon and our community partners. Together, we will continue to further our understanding and be active stewards in Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory and our Yukon.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph

Yukon has a wealth of fossil bones and mummified carcasses of ice age mammals are rarely unearthed here from the permafrost. Both specimens on display here are species that survived the end of the ice age and are a fundamental part of the Yukon landscape today, and to our knowledge this is the only mummified ice age wolf ever found in the world.

Yukon Paleontologist Dr. Grant Zazula

Quick facts 
  • The mummified caribou calf was found on Tony Beets’ placer gold mine on Paradise Hill on June 3, 2016. The fossil specimen represents nearly the entire front half of the caribou carcass, including torso, head and two front limbs, and with skin, muscle and hair intact.

  • The caribou was discovered at a site that contains a volcanic ash bed that dates to approximately 80,000 years ago, making this amongst the oldest mummified mammal tissue in the world.

  • The mummified wolf pup was discovered on July 13, 2016, on the Favron Enterprises Ltd claim. The specimen is exceptionally well-preserved and compete, with head, tail, paws, skin and hair.

  • Because of their scientific significance, both of the specimens were accepted for conservation by the Canadian Conservation Institute.

Media contact 

Janine Workman
Cabinet Communications
[email protected]

Cameron Webber
Communications, Tourism and Culture
[email protected]

Wayne Potoroka
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Communications|
867-993-7100 ext. 108
[email protected]

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