Dawson – On Monday September 11th, placer miner Stuart Schmidt unearthed an intact skull of the now extinct North American Helmeted Muskoxen, Bootherium bombifrons, a distant relative of today’s tundra muskox. The discovery was made on Canyon Creek, a tributary of Little Blanche Creek in the Indian River valley south of Dawson City.
“I just so happened to be running the equipment myself that day, something I don’t often do much anymore, when I noticed a piece of horn sticking out of the gravel,” said Schmidt Mining Corp. President Stuart Schmidt. “I got off the dozer and gave it a pull thinking it was a fragment of bison horn, but it did not budge so I pulled harder with both hands and out came a monster from the past!”
The Little Blanche Creek area has produced many fossils over the years, and the permafrost-rich ground that covers much of the gold fields is responsible for the often-pristine preservation of ice-age era fauna that is tens and even hundreds of thousands of years old. Preliminary estimates place the skull at around 25,000 years old and is a very unique species to be found in Yukon.
This specimen is also of particular note as most of the horn sheath covering the inner bone has been remarkably well-preserved and will be a valuable addition to Yukon’s fossil collection for ancient genetics, radiocarbon dating and other research. It joins a long list of noteworthy discoveries made by Yukon placer miners which includes the nearly-intact frozen bodies of a wolf pup and a caribou calf made in separate discoveries during the 2016 season.
“The placer industry’s contribution to the scientific community’s understanding of Yukon’s antiquity continues to amaze me and fill me with pride,” commented KPMA President Mike McDougall. “To think that all of this incredible history would have been forever lost to the ages had it not been for the labours of miners.”