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A Gold Miner Found a Fully-Mummified Baby Woolly Mammoth in the Yukon

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: Government of Yukon / News Release
Photo Credit: Government of Yukon / News Release

In June 2022, it was revealed a gold miner had come across the mummified remains of a baby woolly mammoth. The discovery, which was announced by the government of Canada’s Yukon territory, was made on Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory, in the Klondike gold fields.

Aerial view of the goldfield along the Klondike
Aerial view of the goldfield in the Klondike, near Dawson, Yukon, Canada. (Photo Credit: DeAgostini / Getty Images)

The remains of the infant woolly mammoth were found while miners were excavating the permafrost on Eureka Creek, south of Dawson City. Travis Mudry initially believed he’d unearthed a mummified baby buffalo, but upon noticing the trunk knew he’d dug up something much more special and rare.

He subsequently alerted his boss, Brian McCaughan, who ordered that all work be stopped. The miner then began reaching out to experts. His notices reached the right people, and it wasn’t long before the Ice Age specimen was excavated from the site, wrapped in a tarp and transported to a nearby spot, where a ceremony was performed by Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Elders.

These same elders granted the mummified mammoth the name Nun cho ga, translating to “Big Animal Baby.”

While it’s common for Ice Age-era fossils to be found in the Yukon, it’s rare for a fully mummified specimen with hair and skin to be unearthed, which is why this particular discovery garnered so much attention.

Nun cho ga is the “most complete mummified mammoth” to have ever been unearthed in North America, and only the second infant in the world to be discovered. Believed to be female, she’s believed to have strayed from her mother while grazing in the grass and gotten stuck in the permafrost during a storm, between 30,000 and 35,000 years ago.

Measuring 140 cm, she was likely just one month old at the time of her death.

In a statement released immediately after the discovery, then-Minister of Tourism and Culture Ranj Pillai (now premier) said:

“The Yukon has always been an internationally renowned leader for ice age and Beringia research. We are thrilled about this significant discovery of a mummified woolly mammoth calf: Nun cho ga. Without strong partnerships between placer miners, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin, and the Yukon government, discoveries like this could not happen.”

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph added:

“This is a remarkable recovery for our First Nation, and we look forward to collaborating with the Yukon government on the next steps in the process for moving forward with these remains in a way that honours our traditions, culture, and laws. We are thankful for the Elders who have been guiding us so far and the name they provided. We are committed to respectfully handling Nun cho ga as she has chosen now to reveal herself to all of us.”

Model of a woolly mammoth displayed outdoors
Woolly mammoth display at Burgers’ Zoo, in the Netherlands. (Photo Credit: Ana Fernandez / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images)

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In March 2024, almost two years after she was first discovered, the mummified remains of Nun cho ga were transported to the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, where they’ll be preserved. Once the work is complete, she’ll be returned to Dawson City.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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