A gold miner hit the jackpot when he stumbled upon a mummified woolly mammoth that lived 35,000 years ago.
The young Canadian uncovered the frozen beast while digging through the permafrost at Eureka Creek in Alaska, US.
Experts said it is “one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world” and is “stunningly preserved.”
It is the most complete mummified mammoth found in North America, with much of its skin and hair still intact.
“She’s perfect and she’s beautiful,” Dr Grant Zazula, palaeontologist for the Canadian territory of Yukon said.
“She has a trunk. She has a tail. She has tiny little ears. She has the little prehensile end of the trunk where she could use it to grab grass.”
“As an ice age palaeontologist, it has been one of my life long dreams to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth. That dream came true today.”
The near complete mummified baby woolly mammoth was found in the Klondike gold fields within Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory on June 21.
Elders of the community held a ceremony last week and named the mammoth calf Nun cho ga, which means “big baby animal” in the Hän language.
Yukon has a world-renowned fossil record of ice age animals, but mummified remains with skin and hair are rarely unearthed.
And it was thanks to a stroke of luck that the woolly mammoth’s remains were unearthed.
Dr Zazula was left scrambling to find somebody in the area who could travel to the site to recover the find on a statutory holiday and eventually came across two geologists.
“And the amazing thing is, within an hour of them being there to do the work, the sky opened up, it turned black, lightning started striking and rain started pouring in,” he said.
“So if she wasn’t recovered at that time, she would have been lost in the storm.”
The geologists who recovered the woolly mammoth found a piece of grass in her stomach which suggests that she was probably grazing in her final moments.
Her remains were found in an area that was then home to wild horses, cave lions and giant steppe bison.
She is thought to have been a little older than one month when she died, reaching 140cm, which is slightly longer than the only other whole baby woolly mammoth discovered in Siberia in 2007.
Her almost perfectly preserved state indicates that she became trapped in mud and was then frozen in permafrost during the ice age.
“And that event, from getting trapped in the mud to burial was very, very quick,” Dr Zazula added.
The project was also supported by Brian McCaughan of Treadstone Mining, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin and the Government of Yukon.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Elder Peggy Kormendy said: “It’s amazing. It took my breath away when they removed the tarp. We must all treat it with respect. When that happens, it is going to be powerful and we will heal. We must as a people.”