On October 14, 2010 bulldozer operator Jesse Steele was working on the expansion of Zeigler Reservoir located up Divide Road here in Snowmass Village when he made a huge discovery, unearthing the bones of a juvenile Colombian Mammoth. That discovery would end up being the start of a 69 day fossil excavation project that would unearth 4,286 bones of 26 various vertebrate Ice Age animals. It is considered to be one of the largest Mastodon sites in the world and has put Snowmass Village on the map for something other than our world class skiing.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science spearheaded the excavation project that lead to 37 experts from around the world to descend on Snowmass Village. The team spent 18 days at the site thru November 16th, 2010 when the weather finally prevented them from further excavation. In that short 18 day time span, scientists uncovered 600 bones and 15 tusks and finally had to wrap up the project for the winter. On May 14th, 2011 the digging resumed and lasted for another 51 days thru July 3rd. Crews were faced with inclement weather in the spring, but continued to work 10 hour days 7 days a week. With 40-50 people digging each day, they moved a total of 8,000 tons of dirt by shovel and hand.
Here is a list of what was found at the Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Site:
FOSSIL FINDS In total, 4,826 bones were pulled from the site in 2011, including: • 74 large specimens in plaster jackets • 49 tusks (29 upper jaw tusks and 20 lower jaw tusks) • 34 mandibles (jaws) • 23 skulls • 20 pelvises • 82 loose teeth Additionally, crews recovered 125 logs and numerous samples of peat, wood, leaves, and rocks. 26 different vertebrate animals from the site have been identified, and the number of Ice Age species will grow as work continues at the Museum.
7 large mammals: • American mastodon, parts of at least 30 individuals; most prevalent large animal at the site • giant bison, parts of at least 10 individuals • ground sloth, parts of at least 4 individuals • Columbian mammoth, parts of at least 3 individuals • deer, parts of at least 3 individuals • horse, based on a single ankle bone • camel, based on a single tooth
19 types of smaller animals: • otter • muskrat • vole • mink or weasel • chipmunk • bat • rabbit • beaver, known from distinctly chewed sticks • mouse • salamander • frog, 4 species • lizard, 2 species • snake • fish • bird, numerous species
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