The preserved remains of a nearly whole 30,000-year-old baby woolly mammoth have been discovered in northwestern Canada.
The baby mammoth was found frozen in permafrost in the Klondike gold fields in the Yukon. Government officials and representatives of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory, where the ancient animal was discovered, said it's the most complete and best-preserved woolly mammoth ever found in North America.
The mummified mammoth was uncovered on June 21 by miners who were digging through the permafrost on Eureka Creek, according to the Yukon government.
Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist and associate professor at the University of Calgary, helped extract the mummified mammoth. He tweeted Friday that the initiative was “the most exciting scientific thing I have ever been part of, bar none.”
Shugar said the stunningly preserved mammoth calf still has its trunk, hair, skin, toenails and intestines intact.
"It's amazing," Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Peggy Kormendy said in a statement. "It took my breath away when they removed the tarp."
Researchers from the Yukon Geological Survey and the University of Calgary said the female baby likely died and became entombed in permafrost more than 30,000 years ago, during the last ice age. Elders of the First Nation Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin named the calf "Nun cho ga," which means "big baby animal" in the Hän language.
“As an ice age paleontologist, it has been one of my life long dreams to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth. That dream came true today,” Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the Government of Yukon, said Friday in a statement.
It is only the second time a mammoth calf has been uncovered whole, according to the researchers. A separate, near-complete infant mammoth, dubbed "Lyuba," was discovered in 2007 in Siberia. Decades earlier, parts of a mammoth calf were found at a gold mine in Alaska in 1948.
Studying the remains of Nun cho ga could help scientists better understand the lives and behaviors of woolly mammoths, the researchers said. The mummified calf could also yield new insights into other ice age animals that once lived in the Yukon, they said, including cave lions and giant steppe bison.