Snowmass, more like bone mass!

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In October, Jesse Steele was bulldozing an area for a new reservoir in Snowmass when he hit something. He researched it and it turned out to be the bones from a mammoth!

 

In October, Jesse Steele was bulldozing an area for a new reservoir in Snowmass when he hit something. He researched it and it turned out to be the bones from a mammoth!

 

Now months later, 2,865 bones have been uncovered in that area. It turns out that where the reservoir is being built is also a prehistoric lake. The lake is like a bowl. There aren't any streams running in or out of it. The scientists uncovering all of the bones have been finding about 200 bones per day recently. They even found a Mastodon femur while we were there.

 

They have two theories about why they find so many bones and animals. One is that the animals just fell in the lake and died. The other is that the animals fell in the lake, but it was too steep to climb out.

 

The animals they have found the most are Mastodons, but they also find a lot of long horn bison and Jefferson's sloths. They have already found 30 tusks! But the bones are very scattered, so they don't just find skeletons. They find a few bones of each animal. They aren't sure why the bones are so scattered, but they think it could have been scavengers, landslides and just the fact that the animals fall apart.

 

While we were there, Kirk showed us this piece of wood that looked like something I would see in my backyard. It looked like a piece of wood that survived through the winter, but it survived through a lot of those. It is a minimum of 50,000 years old! So that gives you an idea of how well preserved things in this place really are. But even though they are well preserved, when the bones are uncovered, most of the time they have to be wrapped in a plaster jacket because the air makes them crack.

 

I know what you are wondering. Have they found any carnivores yet? Well they have, but only birds and weasels. They have yet to find a saber tooth tiger, or a short faced bear. But they still have a few weeks to look for them. They have until July 4th to look for bones. Unfortunately, the reservoir is only being built in a part of the lake, so they are only going to dig up about 10% of the bones there are. But that could also be a good thing, because as Kirk Johnson said, the future scientists might know more than we do, and they might know what to do with the bones better than we do.

 

There could be more places like this in the Mountains. The scientists on the dig are using Google earth to find places that could be like this one, but they can't dig in them unless they are building a reservoir or something. Ian said that they could core some of the sights, which means they would make a small 1 or 2 inch hole so they could get a better understanding of what's down there.

 

Until then, we'll just have to wait until the bones go into the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Most of the bones are going there. Then some are staying up in Snowmass.